I came face to face with exploitation today. It was in the weary face of a 43 year old widowed mom of three boys, named Aya.
Exploitation is defined as: The action of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.
Aya has been widowed for 15 years, raising her boys alone. Without an education, she works as a seamstress. Today, we went to visit her at her home. A corrugated metal home on stilts, newly built and paid for with a $1000 loan Aya signed for. One that carries a 58% interest charge, monthly.
Aya showed us her work as a seamstress. This week, she is sewing jean shorts together — seams, inseams, pockets, waistband, zipper, hem…all of it! For each pair completed, she earns 9 baht (about $.29). On a good day, she can finish five pairs earning a whopping $1.45 for a day of work.
I asked Aya who she works for. What company pays so little? She didn’t know. She works as a ‘contractor’ of sorts for a boss. She has no car or moto so rides a bike to the boss’ house and picks up as much jean fabric as she can carry; then, rides back to her home and begins sewing, one stitch at a time. Her boss earns double what she makes; but does none of the work. Instead, hires it out to a poor widowed woman who is desperate.
And there it was yet again — exploitation. In this part of the world, it is very common. Sometimes the exploitation is hard to see, but when I sat with Aya, it was pretty evident. From a loan shark (aka: Cambodian bank) charging 58% interest on a $1000 loan, to a shrewd (aka greedy) businessman hiring out work and profiting for doing none of it.
Our Landmine Design Dai ladies asked me today if we could hire Aya for our sewing program. As a skilled seamstress, she would add so much to our team. As a community of believers, they have been burdened for Aya and praying for God to provide for her and her children. I told them I wanted nothing more than to hire her. But, we also have a policy to not hire anyone unless we are certain we can keep them employed for a long time. That means we must have enough sales to cover their salary for at least a year.
As we walked away from Aya’s house, I knew we had to hire her. What I didn’t know (and still don’t) is how we will do it.
Exploitation happens all over out here. Aya is just one example of how I see it playing out. But for this one mom, I’m praying we can have a part of watching God redeem the exploitation and bring her into a sustainable job creation program where she not only earns a dignified income, but also grows deeply in her walk with the Lord.
I’m praying for the Lord to raise up $1800 in the next couple of days so we can hire her for the next several months, pay her loan through our cash-advance program, and purchase the supplies and machines she would need to continue in our program full time. And I’m praying for all these things to happen before I leave Cambodia on Monday (March 4)! Yes, Lord!!! Would you pray with me about this? And if the Lord burdens your heart to partner with us to help get Aya hired, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just donate through our online system here…make a note that it is '“for Aya’s hire” and we will know what it is for. I’d be so grateful for your partnership in this!
God is a God of redemption! I’m holding tightly to that for our women out here, including Aya.