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.

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.