Day of the Girl Child: Social Enterprises and the Beauty Industry


Last week was the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child. The United Nations marks the October 11th as International Day of the Girl Child to highlight the strength of girls all over the world, draw attention to the unique challenges that girls face, and advocate for the fulfillment of their human rights. The 2018 theme is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce.” According to the UN, of the 1 billion young people – including 600 million girls – that will enter the workforce in the next decade more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse, and exploitation are common. Therefore, the UN is launching a year-long initiative to bring together partners and stakeholders to advocate for and draw attention and investments to the needs and opportunities for girls to attain skills necessary for gainful employment.

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Friends-International, a local NGO in Cambodia, has spent the past decade developing social business and child protection elements to ensure comprehensive and creative solutions and services for marginalized youth and communities in the aftermath of years of genocide and conflict in the country. In Phnom Penh they run a full child protection and social reintegration program with the goal that every child has access to education and every youth has the skills to obtain stable employment. We came across them while visiting Siem Reap (home of Angkor Wat), Cambodia. The Siem Reap program offers a range of social reintegration support, including family reintegration, school reintegration, and transitional shelter for vulnerable children. Marginalized youth can access skills training in five vocations: sewing, hospitality/cooking, mechanics, barber and beauty. The program in Siem Reap currently operates the following social businesses:

  • Vocational training restaurants, Marum and Nyum Nyum

  • Vocational training beauty shop, Phka Kravan

  • Vocation training mechanics shop

  • Friends ‘N’ Stuff fair trade gift shops

  • Income generating initiatives such as cookbooks and other initiatives

We had an amazing experience meeting the girls of Siem Reap and learning about how beauty has given them more than just advice on the best lipstick color, it has given them a livelihood that they are proud of and hope for the future. Friend-International now runs youth-focused programs in Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, and Switzerland. This week we will explore indie brands with a social awareness focus.