The large area of land located between India and China is called the Indochina peninsula. On the southern edge of this peninsula lies the country of Cambodia, bordered by Thailand to the west and northwest, and by Laos to the north and northeast. Vietnam borders the country to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand is the country’s border to the south and southwest.
Cambodia is a poor country, with over 40% of the population living in poverty – in particular in the rural areas and in particular women. Many people from around the world travel to Cambodia to see the ruins of Angkor Wat, for example. Backpacking in Cambodia is extremely popular, also.
Apart from tourism, the textile industry provides a major percentage of Cambodians with a living. Many a clothing manufacturer in Cambodia has been set up in rural areas where the native artisans produce unique fabrics, such as silk from the lotus plant. Companies interested in social enterprise in Cambodia have founded many textile businesses to employ male and female artisans.
Handcrafts produced by artisans in Cambodia include the krama (Cambodia’s national symbol, a garment usually with a gingham design that can serve as a scarf, a bandana, a sling to carry children, or simply for decoration), several types of ceramics, wood carvings and lacquerware, and painted bottles with the local infused rice wine.
A new eco textile fabric is silk woven from the Lotus plant, created by a company working to bring income to the women artisans of Cambodia by coming up with new fabrics created from plants.
A clothing manufacturer in Cambodia can then take these fabrics and weave together sarongs, karmas, and many other unique articles of clothing.
Siem Reap is a resort town in northwestern Cambodia, and most tourists intending to visit the Angkor building complex will fly into this city. Indeed, its nickname is Great Gate to Angkor. It is in the region of Siem Reap that the textile industry utilizing fabrics made from native women has been gaining hold over the last ten years.
The ruins of Angkor Wat (Wat means temple, and is just one of many buildings in the complex) were found in 1901, after having been forgotten and overgrown with jungle for over 500 years. When the Khmer Empire that had once ruled the land now known as Cambodia fell to invaders. Sadly, the architectural and historical treasure that is Angkor Wat has suffered in recent years from looting and vandalism.
Most of the population of Cambodia – indeed, 95% of it – are Buddhists. The lotus is an important symbol in Buddhism, and has several related meanings. It signifies rising above misfortune, because it grows in muddy water and its flower rests on top of that water in all its glory. It also symbolizes purity and faithfulness. The Budhha is often depicted as sitting on a lotus leaf.
A silk farm in Siem Reap provides employment for hundreds of people in that region and ensures that the textile industry in Cambodia continues to grow.[ff id=”2″]