The end of August saw 186 community members from Koh Kong successfully graduate from the PACE in the Community project. The participants, many of whom live are young women living in remote villages, had completed a 28 week course of life skills, literacy and financial skills to support their community savings groups.
CARE linked these activities with its existing Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLAs), which are community-led savings groups where members meet once a week to save a small amount. Almost all members are women, who often use the money they gain to invest in small home businesses.
There have been two clear benefits of conducting PACE in the Community training alongside the savings groups: members already gather together of their own accord so participation has been convenient for them; and the training topics have been tailored to help them maximise their savings. For example, financial literacy training helped members to budget well so they used their savings or loans effectively, while time management skills helped them to plan their livelihood activities in the most efficient way.
“Now I know the importance of organising my time well… all the members changed by taking time to do their business activities or any task that can bring income in to their family,” said savings group leader Sai Hai. “I have a properly budgeted work plan and use the saving amount to reach these goals. Even after the PACE project has finished we can still apply what we have learned in the future to improve our lives and community.”
The pilot had a very high graduation rate of 93%, with only a handful of people leaving the course over the year. Participants’ spouses were invited to share in their achievements at the graduation event. The positive recognition participants have received from male family members has been particularly important in demonstrating the impact these activities have had on women’s ability to have a voice within their families.
“After my wife attended PACE training she shared a lot with me such as how to communicate with each other without violence and understanding each other’s feelings,” said Kong Porn. “She is braver to talk than before she received training from PACE. I have observed that all the group members’ families have changed after joining the PACE project, not only my family.”
The event was also attended by local authorities including the Deputy District Governor and representatives from the district departments involved with the project. Chea Ratha, Chief of the Department of Women’s Affairs in Sre Ambel district, has been one of the project’s community trainers. “I now have sufficient capacity and power to transfer this knowledge to my people in the whole district…The results of the PACE activities have led to huge benefits to our community; people have changed their habits from negative to positive in individual VSLAs as well as in their family and community… In the future, even thought PACE has finished I will still use the learning gained from PACE training in my role as District Department of Women’s Affairs officer to improve the economic situation of villagers.”
The event took place in Trapaing village, Sre Ambel district, Koh Kong on 29 August 2014 from 8-11.30am.
The PACE in the Community project pilot adapted GAP’s PACE curriculum used in factories to be appropriate to use in rural communities. CARE implemented the original curriculum within five factories in Phnom Penh before handing over responsibility for this to dedicated trainers within each factory. This new rural focus is a continuation of CARE’s good relationship with GAP to improve the skills and knowledge of young people, particularly women, in Cambodia.