29 July 2015

Bridging the Gap

Chab Dai's long time staff member and co-founder of Chab Dai USA, Tania DoCarmo, is highlighted by University of California's School of Social Sciences as they report on her combination of experience in both academia and activism against human trafficking.

Reposted with permission from the UCI School of Social Sciences. See original post here.

Tania has worked for Chab Dai since 2006
For first year grad student Tania DoCarmo, the path to a Ph.D. has been anything but conventional. However, what her journey lacks in predictability, it makes up for in travels abroad, human rights work and practical, first-hand knowledge of human trafficking—her primary research interest. In fact, the sociology student’s proposed project on the subject recently secured her a fellowship through the National Science Foundation’s highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which will fund her next three years at UCI.

Though her initial proposal to the NSF—involving a comparative study of humanitarian organizations in Cambodia and Ukraine—has been tweaked slightly, the focus of her current research remains rooted in the deeper understanding of counter-trafficking organizations. And after working for one such organization for more than nine years, she has some valuable insights.


DoCarmo’s interest in human trafficking is a direct result of her non-traditional route to academia. And though she has always loved learning, after her first year as an undergraduate at Biola University, she worried that she loved it a bit too much.

“I was sort of afraid that I was going to get stuck,” she explains. “I loved school, so I was afraid that I was just going to go to school and get married and never really go anywhere.”

So, the then teenager decided to drop everything and move to Brazil—much to the vexation of her parents—to participate in a humanitarian training program. It was in Brazil that she met her now-husband, and two years after she left the U.S., she set off on another life-changing adventure, this time to Cambodia. It was there that she met a woman who had recently started a group called Chab Dai, a non-governmental organization dedicated to uniting activist groups and ending sexual abuse and trafficking in Cambodia.

After volunteering with the organization for a short while, she eventually took on a full-time position, helping to research and implement effective training methods. It was during her time there that she noticed how distrustful activists were of researchers and journalists.

“Through that experience I just realized the gap that exists between what activists and organizations are doing and what academics are doing,” she says. “Historically, researchers from big universities would come over and want to interview victims and do their research and then you would never hear from them again. There was a lot of mistrust and a lot of feeling like they didn’t understand the context.”

Despite the skepticism, DoCarmo rediscovered her love of academia, took classes online to complete her bachelor’s degree and subsequently earned her master’s degree in anthropology while still working for Chab Dai. She felt that this bad blood between activists and researchers was doing damage to both sides of the cause, and she began to imagine combining her education with her passion and expertise for activism to bridge the gap.

“Getting my master’s degree reminded me how much I like academics and how much I believe in research. It really built my conviction that to do good work we need to understand what we’re addressing—and we need research to do that.”

So, after nearly nine years with Chab Dai and several moves back and forth from the U.S. to Cambodia, DoCarmo and her family made the trek back to California where she began UCI’s sociology graduate program in 2014.  

She is currently working on two research projects that have evolved from her research proposal to the NSF. The first, which she is working on in conjunction with Francesca Polletta, sociology professor, examines the use of storytelling and narratives within the activist community. As DoCarmo explains, there is sometimes a fine line between empowerment and exploitation, especially when the subject of a story may not be able to foresee all the potential ramifications of their participation.

“A lot of times, organizations will use a victim’s story to get donations or funding,” she says. “And while I see why people are doing that, my experience has been that stories can be very exploitative to the people whose stories you are telling.”

In addition to being manipulative, sharing a victim’s story can be damaging to their livelihood and reputation. DoCarmo explains that, in Cambodia, there is a very negative stigma associated with trafficking and prostitution. She has seen victims who are trying to move on with their lives be thrown back into a negative place when their community finds out that they had been sex workers. And there are even more sinister dangers—she notes that it is not uncommon for sex tourists to travel across the world in order to track down a woman that they saw in a documentary.

“Internally I’m still trying to wrestle with it, because I don’t think we should tell a victim what’s good or bad for them because they need to be empowered to tell their story if they want,” she says. “But we also need to be responsible for our part in it. So we’re interviewing organizations in the States and overseas and talking to them about how they’ve used stories—what’s been useful and what hasn’t been useful.”

In addition to this work, DoCarmo is also working on her own project that she hopes will help shed light on how human trafficking came to be a “new” social problem despite having been around for thousands of years. She believes that global interest in the issue became prominent after a 2000 U.N. convention that essentially coined “human trafficking” as a term.

She hopes to find out why, if trafficking has existed for centuries, was there a sudden explosion of concern about it. She’s seeking answers to her questions through archival research and hopes to, eventually, incorporate her work as a chapter in her dissertation, though that won’t be for several years. Her ultimate goal is to repair the bond between academics and activists in the counter-trafficking world, which she hopes will improve overall understanding of the topic.

“Sometimes when I read, there just seems to be a disconnect between how practitioners see a problem and how it’s written about in academia,” she says. “Through my research I want to reflect the practitioner’s view with the academic’s. I think together you have a better understanding.”

For now, DoCarmo is happy to be merging her two passions, academia and activism, while raising her two children with her husband. And with the NSF fellowship to help fund tuition and research expenses, she can spend the next three years focusing on how to make a difference.

—Bria Balliet, School of Social Sciences - See more at: http://www.socsci.uci.edu/newsevents/news/2015/2015-07-14-docarmo-trafficking.php#sthash.eBe2i3Mp.dpuf

21 July 2015

Training the next generation of Cambodian social workers


It’s been three years since the first Social Work majors in Cambodia graduated from university, fulfilling a very real need in providing human trafficking and abuse survivors with expert care and support. With this in mind, we thought it was time we checked in with our Jeut Nung Dai social work training team here at Chab Dai…

Prak Chantrea is the Assistant Project Manager for Jeut Nung Dai and a member of that ground-breaking class of 2012 himself, having earned his Social Work degree from Royal Phnom Penh University months before starting work at Chab Dai.

Building capacity in social work


So what does the JND team do day-to-day?

“We provide social workers with training related to direct social work and counselling practice such as basic and advanced counselling training, child development and parenting skills training, conflict resolution training, peaceful family training and more.

“This helps social workers to build their knowledge regarding strength-based and contextual approaches, and to improve their skills in listening, asking, responding and counselling.”

Chantrea told me that many of the social workers he helps to train are in fact survivors of abuse or human trafficking themselves, so having the support of the JND team is really valuable.
“This training also helps them to feel confident of doing their tasks with clients in the community. Some trainees have said they felt healed with their experiences because they had opportunity to express their feelings [to us] and reflect on their improvements.”

“The trauma-informed caregiver course was very important for me because I can now help my team and family. I also can share it to my community as well as I am able to help myself with trauma experiences.” 
Counsellor, ARM



Stories of hope


Although there are challenges still in the field of social work – “some organizations or managers do not give enough value to social workers, or do not know clearly what the practices are” – there is plenty to be hopeful about in Cambodia’s burgeoning social work sector.

“One organization which we worked with for a year runs a shelter for women survivors of human trafficking and sexual abuse.

“Most of their staff lacked knowledge and skills in their work field and they often did not have a social work degree or a relevant background. The supervisor requested our support in building capacity for her employees. JND provided them with training about case management and basic counselling, as well as a mentoring service for four months to support and encourage them to evaluate what they have learnt. We discussed the counselling process and cooperating between social worker, counsellor and house sister regarding cases.

"After we finished our support, the staff reported that they have improved their capacity and feel confident to deal with families and clients. They were also committed to continuing their learning.”

Chantrea explains that Jeut Nung Dai have also been responsible for organising a social work conference every year since 2013.

“The conference aims to strengthen networking and capacity-building of practitioners in Cambodia by sharing skills and expertise as well as discussing how to address certain challenges and difficulties encountered in their daily practices.”

Reducing vulnerability


Like many of Chab Dai’s projects, Jeut Nung Dai works to stop human trafficking and abuse through both direct and indirect means, as Chantrea affirms:

“We build the capacity of Chab Dai members and other staff, but we also go to the communities and sometimes provide direct counselling and group sessions. The main point is about reducing vulnerability.”

This seems an apt way to sum up not only the work of Jeut Nung Dai, but what Chab Dai is all about - empowering those working in counter human trafficking, and through this, reducing the vulnerability of Cambodian people.



21 June 2015

Collaborating with corporates in the fight against trafficking

The private sector as partners by Helen Sworn


Knowing our areas of core competency and influence have always been a foundational ethos and practice for us at Chab Dai. A decade ago when Chab Dai was set up as a coalition, there were few partners in the movement outside the NGO sector. 

However, during these years we have seen a new generation of stakeholders who previously had only been seen as the problem and not part of the solution. These partners are from the business sector and, although there is still a level of suspicion between the NGOs and businesses, there is also a growing collaboration emerging internationally.

Businesses supporting human rights


Monique Villa
This was evident at the recent Thomson Reuters Trust Forum conference in Hong Kong, which I was privileged to attend. Among the 200 attendees, more than 70% were corporate businesses - law firms, the banking industry, PR and communications companies, as well as government figures and journalists who are, at last, interested in reporting on the more complex, emerging and in-depth issues beyond the sensationalized media.

During the conference, these corporate representatives were put on the spot by the Thomson Reuters CEO, Monique Villa who had some innovative grassroots organisations present their needs. There ensued an open floor request for pledges of support from the attendees. I was fascinated and encouraged to see lawyers, design companies and others publicly commit their expertise to these causes. 

Stopping exploitation with multi-sector collaboration


Andrew Forrest
One of the keynote speakers was Andrew Forrest, an Australian mining magnate who stepped back from his corporate position four years ago to dedicate his time, energy and significant resources and influence to the anti slavery cause.  An interesting observation was how he started with his own corporation, carrying out a supply chain audit and calling out others to do the same.

Of course, we still have a long way to go but I think that we are beginning to take hold of the vision and need for multi-sector collaboration, which is the only way we will ever see an end to the exploitation of human lives.

Hong Kong image by Shizhao, used under Creative Comms licence. Other images courtesy of © Thomson Reuters.






14 June 2015

Christa Sharpe: '10 years of remembrance, thankfulness & celebration'

Cambodia is fortunate to have one of the most effective, unifying, impactful anti-trafficking and sexual abuse coalitions in the world – the Chab Dai Coalition. Well, I would say Chab Dai is the most effective, but I’m biased! International Justice Mission Cambodia (IJM) has been fortunate to be one of the original members of Chab Dai since its founding in 2005. I can’t imagine the anti-trafficking movement in Cambodia without Chab Dai.  Well, to be accurate, I was in Cambodia before Chab Dai existed, so I actually knew what the movement was like without Chab Dai, which increases my joy even more as we celebrate their 10-year anniversary.

The value of looking back


As member agencies with powerful missions, facing urgent needs and engaging with unimaginable violence, we often find ourselves primarily looking forward and focusing on the pain of this world. But, God is clear that we are also to live and serve in the disciplines of remembrance, thankfulness and celebration.

Remembering the faithfulness, gifts, miracles and progress from the past fuels us with hope in the midst of our current battles and circumstances. Practicing thankfulness brings peace and allows us to value others around us. When we celebrate the victories – large and small – we infuse ourselves and our teams with deep joy - a joy that would be impossible had we only focused on the deep pain and need around us.  

Human trafficking in Cambodia: 10 years ago


I remember what Cambodia was like the year Chab Dai Coalition started. I remember the thousands of children being openly prostituted in brothels that lined the streets of communities across the nation while traffickers, pimps and business owners were raking in money. I remember criminals and abusers who did not know the law, or what was right or wrong under the law. I remember dozens of pedophiles walking the streets holding hands with the children they planned to abuse, with no fear of being confronted or arrested.

I remember a decimated public justice system filled with officials who had almost no training to do their jobs, felt ineffective to stop crime, were not yet leading the anti-trafficking movement, and were sometimes even feared by the very people who needed them the most. I remember a citizenry who did not trust that their justice system could work for them, did not see the media advocating for their protection, and did not know the law or their rights under the law.

I remember a private aftercare system that was small, weak, uncoordinated, with almost no best practice procedures in place and extremely low survivor restoration rates. I remember NGOs who were not unified, not sharing or learning with one another, but were desperate for support.

The impact of coalition


I am thankful that the founders of Chab Dai saw the reality of violence and dysfunction, but had the vision to see what might be possible if they brought together like-minded organizations to provide shared learning, equipping, guidance and best practice models.

I am thankful that Chab Dai created a forum for us to learn from, share with, challenge, and encourage one another. I am thankful that this collaborative learning environment has raised private aftercare’s quality of service and protection to trafficking and sexual abuse survivors throughout the nation.

I am thankful for healthy accountability, that we, as members, value and embrace in order to be more competent, ethical, transparent, research-based and effective in our work. I am thankful for Chab Dai’s innovation and vision to bring unity to the movement in Cambodia and around the world through the Global Learning Community and the Freedom Collaborative. I am thankful that Chab Dai fills in vital gaps through their important research, hotline, community education, and working together with the government.


A time to celebrate


I celebrate all the miracles that have happened in Cambodia over the past decade. I celebrate that tens of thousands of Cambodian and Vietnamese citizens have been educated, trained, and empowered, and now courageously identify trafficking and abuse, report it, prevent it, and are growing in their trust that their public justice system will respond to their cries for help.


I celebrate the hundreds of police officers, social workers, court officials and community leaders who have been trained, equipped, and now confidently lead the fight against trafficking. I celebrate the new laws, policies and procedures that have led to greater accountability, government leadership and effectiveness. 

I celebrate that the combined efforts of the public justice system, community education, prevention programs and aftercare services have led to a decrease in prevalence of the commercial sexual exploitation of minors in the three provinces with the highest markets - from 15-30% of total sex workers in the early 2000s, down to around 2% today. And, the most significant decrease is the rate of young minors aged 15 and under in commercial prostitution - down to under .1%. Chab Dai members have been a part of bringing about all this change and progress, along with our government leaders and partners.

The impossible is possible


What seemed impossible 10 years ago has become possible. We can look back and see more progress, more miracles, and more lives restored than we imagined. When we choose to remember what was, we can see more clearly what is, which gives us hope for what can be.

We are all working to maintain and deepen the progress made in the fight against sex trafficking. We are just starting to grow the movement to end labor and marriage trafficking.  And sexual abuse and domestic violence are still at epidemic rates in Cambodia. But what we have all seen is that justice for the poor is possible.  

What has already been achieved in the fight against sex trafficking can happen – and at even faster rates – in the battles that lay before us, because lessons have been learned, the systems are stronger and the government is leading the way. And, as we have done for the past 10 years, we will do this together. In shared learning. In unity. In accountability. In coalition.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles… Psalm 105:4-5a

What do you remember as you think back over the past 10 years?  What are you thankful for?  What do you celebrate?




Thanks to Christa for writing this guest post. You can find the latest news on IJM projects in Cambodia and more about the organisation as a whole, over on their main website, www.ijm.org.

'Hands' image property of Chab Dai. All other images provided by IJM. 


07 June 2015

The Chab Dai Charter goes online!



This week saw the official launch of our new Charter online database at the Chab Dai Charter feedback meeting here in Phnom Penh. Member organisations travelled from as far as Siem Reap and Battambang to show their continuing commitment to excellence, through the Charter’s set of professional standards in combating human trafficking and abuse. With this in mind, we’ve put together a short guide on everything to do with the Charter, how it works and how it can benefit organisations.

What is the Chab Dai Charter?


Chab Dai CharterChab Dai created the Charter in 2011 in order to give our members and ourselves a common set of 15 principles to work towards, grouped under four core values: Protection, Participation, Transparency and Collaboration.

Moreover, the Charter is designed as a practical tool, containing specific action points in order to achieve these principles. By self-evaluating on everything from encouraging creative thinking at work to being mindful of inclusion, we can continue to raise our standards as a coalition.

How is the Charter implemented?


The practical side of the Charter was actually created using feedback from our members. Charter-Doorsteps Team visit member organisations and guide the staff through a participatory process of self-evaluation, with each staff member scoring criteria based on how they think the organisation is doing. These could be provision of specific trainings, procedural points, like how to raise an issue about a senior member of staff or PTSD staff care for those dealing with trauma in their day-to-day jobs.
A report with Improvement Action Plans (IAPs) is then produced, based on the collected scores, which the organisation can use to identify strengths and implement changes where needed. Learning grants are also given to selected organisations that may need extra resources to complete the process and staff are also encouraged to share lessons learned at our training events.

The Charter database


The new database, designed by Rob Perrett, allows Charter members to record and update their information and assessments instantly online. It also enables NGOs to produce data for use in donor reports, with information already packaged into charts and recommendations, saving a lot of staff time.

Practical assessment tool - Chab Dai CharterWhat our members think


Reuk Saray of WEC and Bridge of Hope project told us about his experience of the Charter implementation:

“When I first started with WEC, no one introduced me to the Child Protection Policy – I just signed without knowing anything about it. Now, we understand the importance of what it is and how we need to protect children.”


Destiny Rescue’s Kimbra Smith also had lots of positive things to say about the Charter.

“Just spending time with other members, our staff benefit from hearing about other’s strengths and weaknesses. Once they have connected with other staff, they feel comfortable contacting them to ask questions or for resources. They then feel like they can hold their head up high and be proud of their development.”

The Charter around the globe


The Charter has proved so effective that it’s been used as a model for our partners in places as diverse as Costa Rica, Fiji, Indonesia and Thailand, with one team saying it was ‘the most practical tool for assessment they had ever used.’

The Charter has made a huge difference not only to our members but to us as well - Chab Dai was the first organisation to go through Charter process. To us, it means always striving for best practice when it comes to supporting survivors of abuse in all its forms, and doing this together as a coalition.

As one member said: “It’s not realistic that organisations can be perfect in every way, so we are very positive about the Charter – we show other members our IAPs to show them that we need to improve too!”