Thanks to the support of StarKids, vulnerable women in Cambodia are starting to take charge of their financial future. By Virginia Morrison.

Faced by poverty, young Saniyas had to leave her native Phnom Penh to go to Malaysia to work illegally at a clothing factory.

As the second daughter among 11 siblings, she was forced to leave school aged 12 to work in a factory, but even then, she didn’t earn enough to afford food each month. Tempted by a slightly higher income, she left for Malaysia to work but it wasn’t long before she was arrested by immigration police and detained for three months. “It was the worst experience of my life,” she says.

Happily for her, things started to look up when she became part of World Vision’s Youth Leadership and Livelihood project, which provides vulnerable people with training in technical and entrepreneurial skills – so they can take charge of their future.

World Vision introduced Saniyas to a six-month sewing course and provided her with her own machine. Now she operates a business back home in Phnom Penh, sewing traditional clothing for her customers.

“My dream has come true,” Saniyas says. “When I was little, I always asked my mum to buy me a zigzag sewing machine.”

A hard worker with natural talent, she has gained a reputation for good service, which keeps her busy with pre-orders. “I now have $280 to $430 monthly in savings, on top of my husband’s irregular income,” she says.

With a second baby on the way, she’s full of hope. “If I didn’t learn this skill, I would have just stayed at home to care for my child or I would have attempted to go back to work in Malaysia,” she says. “But now, I can plan to expand my business and improve my skills so that I can design and make nicer Muslim clothing.”