Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A troop of monkeys

Today I read a news story about a man who was caught with a 1000 images of child pornography on his computer. He blamed his cat, claiming that the cat had walked on the keyboard when he left the room and had initiated the download. Yeah right! Now, if you had a well trained monkey, like the ones below, I could see this excuse almost working, but to blame your kitty is just a tad ridiculous.

I digress. We're knitting away and I've been to visit the village where four of the knitters live. It is a very poor village, with most of the houses made of scrap wood and corrugated iron roofs, on stilts at the edge of the Tonle Sap. They had told me that there were 8 women in their village who already knew how to knit who wanted to join CK and another 10-15 younger women who wanted to learn how to knit. I initially thought that we'd first work with the women who already know how to knit and also give them training on how to share their skills with others.

It was not to be.

It turned out that the eight experienced knitters were from a different community, 2 kilometers north of where my current four knitters are from. This shouldn't be an issue except that they are much more well off and, well, were quite snooty towards my knitters. Cambodia is a very hierarchical society and the poorer you are, the lower you are on the ladder. I had planned for the current knitters to act as mentors to the new group, but with the disparity in living standards between the two groups, I could tell that the new group would not be able to tolerate learning from women they consider lower than them. I later confirmed this with my husband, who did the translating with me, and my fifth knitter, who is from a different community altogether and observant and insightful.

Also, the new group of knitters informed us that they would not need any training (we were thinking at least two weeks to learn the techniques correctly) and could start working right away. One of the women told us she could learn everything in 1 hour and refused to participate in the training as she could use the time to do other things. Also, they are already working for someone else knitting hats and earning a fair wage.

Putting it all together, thinking it over, I decided that to work with the 10-15 untrained young women in the poorer village is more in line with the overall goals and vision of Cambodia Knits: to help women in marginalized communities gain flexible and fair employment. Even though it means training knitters from the beginning rather than starting with experienced knitters, it will be more beneficial than working with women who already have a good thing going on.

I later told my current group the plan and they agreed to talk to the women in community and make a list of the women interested in joining the training. They came back the next day and told me that a new factory opened nearby and that all the women in their village had gotten jobs there. No willing knitters in the village.

Back to square one.


  1. You will find your knitters, I know it!

  2. I just found you through Ravelry and I had to tell you how much I admire what you are doing. This is very cool indeed. I'm adding you to my blogroll now.

  3. Keep at it, you will find the knitters. And yes, it is better to work with somebody who wants to work with you and appreciates what you are doing than to try to convince others. You made the right choice.