07 November 2015

Our blog has moved!

We are pleased to announce that "Along the Paths of Justice" has now been incorporated into a new Chab Dai International website!

New blog posts, news and reflections from the Chab Dai team will now be posted at chabdai.org/blog/

Take a look and we hope you keep following along!

Our new blog, located at chabdai.org

02 November 2015

Cultivating Community Heroes

We’ve been selecting and training Community Heroes from all over Cambodia since 2011, watching as they go on to train other members of their community on how to protect their family from traffickers, raise awareness about abuse and educate on human rights. As part of our anniversary series celebrating Chab Dai’s achievements, we talked to Nop Sen, Project Manager for the Community Heroes team…

Sen won a scholarship to study an ABA in English Literature with Asia HRDC before working in administration and human resources. He came to the Chab Dai via the then-called Doorsteps Project (now Charter-Doorsteps) and now decides budgets, coordinates activities and prepares crucial reports for the Community Heroes Team.

“A few years ago, I worked with a company but I think that they can only find support appropriate for their staff, they don't have time or opportunity to help the Cambodian people. I applied to Chab Dai as a Christian organisation but also I think that Chab Dai has a vision to help the Cambodian people without getting any profit or benefit from it. So I appreciate working here, because when I have experience or knowledge that I can share, I can get it out to the communities, the other people who lack information about this.”

Who are the Community Heroes?

For every province the CH Project works in, 10 heroes are chosen from existing trainer volunteers from the other two prevention projects (Safe Community and Ethnic Community projects) and, as Sen says, “often our heroes are on or know the local authorities so it’s easier for us to collaborate with them.”

“After we have worked with the villagers and heroes/heroines I think that most of the villagers in our target areas have more knowledge about how to deal with brokers, how to report from the helpcard that we [use to] provide the hotline, they know to call when they have a problem with a rape case in the community. We also do refresher training with the heroes, so they have more knowledge to get their point across, and are more confident when teaching the villagers.”

Sen (centre) & the Community Heroes team

Human trafficking prevention in the nick of time

This kind of community work can be really effective not only in preventing potential human trafficking cases, but in quickly dealing with them when they arise:

“One boy in the North-eastern provinces stuck the helpcard on the wall in his house as our hero explained to his school that they might need it for the future…When one of his sisters was taken to China and forced into marriage, she managed to call her father and tell him to call the number on the helpcard – she remembered seeing it on the wall. Her father called to the Case Support Team; they are now dealing with this case and the broker has been arrested.”

I ask Sen what he hopes to see in Cambodia in the next ten years in regards to this issue.

“According to our work with them, most local authorities have high commitment to help the villagers in their own community - I hope that for the next 10 years, NGOs, the government and local authorities are going to build strong relationships and continue to network together to help to abolish all forms of trafficking and abuse. This will be great for Chab Dai’s vision.”

10 September 2015

10 years of Chab Dai: Making a coalition work

The Learning Community project is a definitive part of the Chab Dai programme, being the core of all our coalition-building events, key member trainings and collaboration activities. But since #10yearsofChabDai is all about highlighting the projects and people who have been fundamental to our vision, it seemed like a good opportunity to check in with the LC and its current Project Manager, Um Sam Ol.

Sam Ol started at Chab Dai as a Media and Communications intern in 2010 and, five years later, oversees the member application process, the resource library and our bi-annual member meetings, as well as key trainings for our member NGOs.

“Part of my time is dedicated to screening organisations who apply to be Chab Dai members but we also run the bi-annual member meetings and different types of member forums: directorship, business, caregiver and HR. We invite participants who work in the same area of focus and face similar things and often one of them may have a success or a lesson to share or a tool or resource that can help the others to be successful.”


Managing a diverse and dynamic coalition

Being the glue that holds the coalition together is not always straightforward, it seems.
“Our 53 organisations are so diverse and dynamic and have their own focus and as we are the central body, it can be challenging to link up with all of them.” Nevertheless, Sam Ol has seen some great results of capacity-building in action:

“A project coordinator at an NGO based in Banteay Meanchey gave us some really positive feedback about our Child Protection Policy training. The organisation was trying to promote child rights in the community, but they often saw violence, or parents forcing their children to go to work to bring income for the family. After some staff attended our training, they got the knowledge and skills to go back to their staff and pass on the training. Then their staff could train the community and they saw a noticeable improvement.

"The community character has changed in the way they react to the children. They know how to protect children and know what to do when the children are being abused or exploited. We see that they are now respecting their children’s rights more and we saw a reduction of violence happening."
Participant, Child Protection Training

Changing attitudes

When I ask Sam Ol how the human trafficking situation has changed inthe last decade, he talks about a shift in attitudes, from focusing just on aftercare to taking a more holistic approach.

“In the early days, there were a lot of brothels and trafficking was really crazy and that’s why the shelters were needed. But later, the government realized that the best interest of the client is not living in the shelter but with their family. That is why now there is a shift to focus on family and community – a lot of organisations still offer care to the client but more community-based.

“And from the NGO perspective now, they’re not just focused on their own job, as before – they try to cooperate more because they believe that, working together, we can end this issue.”

The crucial contribution that the Learning Community team offers is support for services on the frontline, as Sam Ol says:

“Even though I work in the LC which is not directly benefitting the client, I serve in an indirect way, I can still be a part of it. With members who are working directly with survivors. This really inspires me to keep on going.”

Want to read more about the work of our different teams here at Chab Dai? Catch our interview with the Jeut Nung Dai team here, or take a look at our main website for more information.

24 August 2015

How will the ASEAN Economic Community impact Cambodia?

The end of 2015 is set to be the launch of the new single market in Southeast Asia, otherwise known as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Ten countries in the region, including Cambodia, are expected to benefit from “the free flow of goods, services, investments, and skilled labor, and the freer movement of capital across the region.” (Nay Pyi Taw Declaration, May 2014)

But with the construction of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region’s special economic zones also coming to a close in the next twelve months, what are the implications for migration in the area, and how will this affect Cambodia?

Is Cambodia ready for the AEC?

The AEC is predicted to increase Cambodia’s real GDP by 4.4 %, its exports by 5.3 % and private investment by 24.8 %.

However, poor infrastructure in road, rail, ports, as well as the limitations of the local electricity supply and telecommunications pose practical problems, according to Hing Vutha’s report ‘Cambodia’s Preparedness for ASEAN Economic Community 2015 and Beyond.’ Bureaucratic and logistical costs currently make the export procedure in Cambodia lengthy and expensive.

Cambodia may also lag behind others in terms of education and skill, due to the low literacy rate (73.9% 2012) and the majority of workers still educated only to primary school level. Many may not be able to compete with other countries like Singapore and Malaysia in a single jobs market.

Movement of skilled and unskilled workers

According to the ARTNeT policy brief on ‘Moving Freely? Labour Mobility in ASEAN’, Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) will ensure standard qualifications are recognised in professions like accountancy and medicine across ASEAN, alongside the development of the ASEAN Qualification Framework. However, there is nothing in place for unskilled workers.

“By limiting substantial co-operation on labour market access to high-skilled labour, ASEAN members are missing out on the opportunities and positive developmental impacts from facilitating well-managed migration.”

AEC’s agreements The Movement of Natural Persons (2012) and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) are inherently selective, the first created with businesses sending personnel overseas temporarily in mind, and the second applying only to those who are employed with a registered company. These do not include unskilled labour or people simply seeking employment or citizenship elsewhere, one of several points where the AEC differs from the Europe Union.

Helen Sworn on
'Preventing Slavery & Trafficking in Persons in ASEAN', Bali

Increased migration; increased vulnerability

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) plans to facilitate trade between the six GMS countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand) are also gathering steam this year. 

Speaking on the subject earlier this month at the 8th Summer Institute in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Bali, Indonesia, Chab Dai’s Helen Sworn has warned on the implications of Cambodia’s position in the midst of two new economic corridors that will essentially link China and India via Southeast Asia. ADB estimated back in 2004 that half a million trucks will travel through the region per day, which will increase the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDs as well as the risk of unsafe migration. Source communities will have fewer prospects and access to education as people move to economically stronger countries, with children left behind as parents migrate for work.

Human rights NGOs like Adhoc and NGOCRC have also warned that the ASEAN integration will lead to greater numbers of children in particular being trafficked or abused. Reported in Voice of America, Ya Navuth, head of the NGO Caram said:

“Children could also face more risk from economic pulls, experts warn. That includes families sending their children to work in other countries, where they will be vulnerable to abuse.”

How can Cambodia respond to the ASEAN and GMS changes?

Hing Vutha, speaking at the Chab Dai member meeting in May
The Migration Policy Institute report on ‘A ‘Freer’ Flow of Skilled Labour within ASEAN: Aspirations, Opportunities, and Challenges in 2015 and Beyond’ recommends ‘temporary schemes’ to expand the market access for low-skilled labours, creating legal channels to reduce irregular migration and ensuring sending countries be involved in monitoring the candidates before they emigrate.

Hing Vutha meanwhile, brings the emphasis back to education:

“Improving the education system should be the prime policy focus…Cambodia can benefit from the AEC since it can continue to import skilled labour from other ASEAN countries to tide it over this period of skills shortage. But over the longer term, the country should also focus on developing the skills of domestic labour so that it can reduce its dependence on foreign skilled labour.”

Though the ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons and the ASEAN Plan of Action are expected to make positive steps on this issue before the end of the year, it’s clear that we and other organisations fighting to stop human trafficking in the region will need to maintain a coordinated effortto work across border lines, not just within one country.

05 August 2015

Coordinating our efforts against forced marriage in China

Every year, many Cambodian women are being sold a dream. It’s a dream of a better life in China: a rich husband, a comfortable office job, a world away from their provincial, and often poor, villages. In reality, brokers are working on both sides of the border to sell these women into marriages they find are far below their expectations, and into a life in rural China strikingly similar to the one they were trying to escape.

This issue is now being reported in the mainstream and international news, but Chab Dai have been dealing with cases such as these since early 2014. So how can we respond effectively to this growing problem?

A market for marriage

Reports blame China’s one-child policy for reducing the number of women in the country and creating a ‘market’ for men seeking a bride from overseas, wherein men often pay huge sums for a Cambodian wife. Across the border, prospective brides are approached by locals, even people they know and trust and are told that the money will go to their family.

But after the deal is done, the families rarely see the amount they were promised, and the women often end up trapped in an abusive marriage, in a foreign country where they may speak little of the native tongue. Passports are usually taken from them, posing a problem in itself, since train travel in China – a potential means of escape - requires valid ID.

How we help

Cases usually reach Chab Dai’s Case Support team via our helpline number, either from the women, the Cambodian Embassy in China or referrals from our partners. Chab Dai have managed to help repatriate 13 women from China, but coordination remains a problem. Even if the women make it to the Cambodian Embassy, they can end up stranded there for months or placed in a government shelter under sometimes unliveable conditions.

On a visit to China, Justice and Client Care Senior Manager Chan Saron commented:
“What we need is someone working on the ground, directly with the survivors. There is a gap for a coordinating organization between the survivors, the local Chinese authority, Cambodian embassy in China and government institutions and NGOs in Cambodia.”

Commitment to collaboration

Aware that this is an issue experienced by many of our partners and stakeholders, Chab Dai recently held a Round Table discussion aimed at sharing information and forming a collaborative response. World Vision, AIM, IOM and others were at the table with us, relating lessons learned and suggestions for the future.

We discussed the need for a centralised, Chinese hotline number that women can more easily access and shared ways we can better advise women on their escape routes, including how to get back their passports for the train journey, or travelling by alternate transport.

Together, we identified the most common areas these women usually come from, suggesting we could geographically target our prevention programmes to ensure key communities are informed about this issue.

The meeting closed with a series of positive action points, including working towards an MOU with the relevant government departments, as well as tackling the lack of funding by creating a basket fund between NGOs.

But the most important take-away was an ongoing commitment to collaboration. Only an organised effort between NGOs, the government and other key institutions will effectively handle, resolve and even prevent these cases from happening. Let’s hope the next few months and years will see those gaps on the ground in China filled, a more proactive and cohesive response from both sides of the border and more Cambodian women returned home safely.

Key source: ‘Trafficked for Marriage to China’ Case Support Project report, by Kristina Novak.

Images by Stephen Durham and Brad Collis, used under Creative Commons licence.