I get asked this every so often when I have a market stall. Usually by someone who has their arms across their chest and who has been staring at the monkeys for a couple of minutes.
I’m not sure if they are disappointed that the monkeys didn’t come to life, or start a little dance or maybe say something cute in Monkey language.
Here’s a little secret….the monkeys don’t do much at all. At their best they will keep your bills stuck to your fridge door until you remember to pay, and they will wrap their arms around a school bag strap so it can be easier to identify by a child, and they make a plant or bunch of flowers into a more creative gift when strategically placed…but yeah..the monkeys don’t “do” much as such.
That is if you are asking what the monkeys do for you.
However, if we take a step back from the market stall and look behind that scenes it’s a completely different story.
These magnetic monkeys are in fact doing lots!
Firstly they are creating jobs for over 120 women who didn’t have any access to employment before being trained to knit and crochet. That in itself if a pretty big deal and a valid enough reason to buy a few monkeys.
Finding a job in Cambodia is not easy, especially when you’re a woman who never finished school. Most of our knitters were completely dependent on charity and aid before they completed our three week knitting course. Waiting for someone to have pity on you and hoping that you will be given a bag of rice to feed your family is not good for the soul. It’s a scary place to be and keeps you in a cycle of poverty that feels impossible to break out from.
With the new knitting and crochet skills, there is now the ability to generate money at their own pace. In fact, that is actually what our knitters love the most. The freedom to choose how often they work gives them so much flexibility to still look after their children or grandchildren and there is no one forcing them to reach specific targets each month. In a country that sends thousands of women into overcrowded sweatshops each day that is a huge relief.
As well as improving the lives of many women our monkeys have this rare ability to make the heavy topics of poverty, women empowerment, fair trade, ethical business etc into something a little less threatening and their playfulness and positive vibes mean that when normally someone might switch off from wanting to listen, they are able to engage and hear the message without the regular barriers being up.
This means that the monkeys are great as conversation starters in schools, workplaces and community groups. Children, in particular, seem to be so receptive to the story behind the monkeys and love knowing that their new little friend has helped someone else.
So yes, our magnetic monkeys don’t do much for you….but they do make a huge difference for the women who make them.