26 March 2015

Thoughts from Chab Dai members

2015 is a special year for us, so we wanted to use this opportunity to ask some of our member organisations how they feel about being a part of the Chab Dai coalition, and how collaboration with NGOs here in Cambodia has helped them in their area of focus.

Some of our members work in legal support, some in psycho-social aftercare, others are human trafficking prevention organisations, working to raise awareness of the issue. All are joined by a common bond of Christian fellowship and share in our vision to connect, generate and share knowledge, advocate for change and bring an end to human trafficking and abuse.

Here are just a few of their thoughts…

Supporting grassroots organisations

One thing that Chab Dai champions is providing small-scale NGOs with the necessary training and capacity to grow. Jesse from foster care organisation, Children in Families (one of our early members), explains their experience of our programs:

 'Children in Families is a local organisation that focuses on placing orphans and vulnerable children in loving local families in Cambodia. We are a small organisation with a developing staff that is taking on a major problem in the country. For several years Chab Dai has been invaluable in providing training and support for the staff of our organisation. We have benefited from trainings focused on developing the internal structure of organisation, social work trainings, and general trainings oriented towards building our staff. There have been many challenges in creating and growing this small non-profit in context of Cambodia, and Chab Dai has helped us to navigate many of these hurdles.’

 The power of collaboration

AusCam Freedom Project is dedicated to empowering those affected by abuse and educating the wider community in order to prevent human trafficking, violence against women and harmful cultural attitudes. Here, Julie Dowse, Founder & Director explains what membership of Chab Dai has meant for AusCam:

“Cambodia is a country with a large number of NGO’s - both local and international - with a mission to fight the trafficking and exploitation of men, women and children. My early experiences in Cambodia showed me that many organisations were operating as lone rangers with limited partnerships and collaborative work. I soon learnt that the primary motives of this were due to the ‘fight for the donor dollar’ which I found very disturbing. I was very relieved when I found out about the coalition formed at Chab Dai to provide a platform for a unified approach to our work and to enable partnerships to develop, forums to discuss the challenges in particular areas of work, training, research, accountability and conferences. I have found all of these opportunities incredibly important in the running of our organisation, including the support needed for our local staff.”

Education Advisor at Heart of Hope, Colleen Briggs also strongly believes in connectivity to succeed in the anti-trafficking movement. Ministering to exploited and at-risk children for 7 years, she told us:

“I sincerely believe that had God not connected us to Chab Dai we would not have been able to serve these children.  We would not have known how to teach the children about the dangers of trafficking nor would we have been able to make the connections to other NGOs that have been so vital to us.  In one case we were connected with a legal aid NGO who helped us work with the police and saw an arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of a perpetrator in the community. The children in the community now have a school and the families have a place to come to when they need a referral or assistance.  Chab Dai has been a valuable guide and partner in most aspects of our program.”

To find out more about becoming a Chab Dai member, follow the link to our main website for more information and to read about our current projects.

21 March 2015

10 years of Chab Dai - Our women leaders

In the week that Cambodia welcomes First Lady Michelle Obama and her ‘Let Girls Learn’ education project, we could do no better than reflecting on our own women leaders within Chab Dai. Here, we talk to Finance & Operations Director Orng Muylen, about her experience at Chab Dai and opportunities for women in Cambodia today.

After an internship at World Vision, Muylen joined Chab Dai in 2007, during her second year studying Accountancy at Phnom Penh International University. She later gained her Masters of Finance from the National University of Management, and quickly progressed from administrator to director within 5 years, now responsible for the Finance department in Chab Dai Coalition Cambodia, monitoring finances for Chab Dai overseas and overseeing operations in the organization.

As the first woman in her family to attend university, Muylen’s story is an encouraging one, though she told me this has meant many challenges along the way:

“In Cambodian culture, as in many parts of the world, men’s opinions are often respected more than women’s, whether they are right or not. If women are strong, it is said that our head is ruled by our heart, like we don't have respect. I feel like it is not appropriate for this attitude in the workplace or in society. We need to respect each other’s opinions, regardless of the person’s gender.”

“But I feel proud that I am the one daughter in my family that has studied at university and I can live in Phnom Penh by myself. Now I am confident about this and that's why I think women can do anything they set their mind to.”

Signs of change in Cambodia

With or without Michelle Obama’s historical visit (the only time an incumbent US First Lady has come to Cambodia), gender is an issue firmly on the agenda in Cambodia right now and even in Muylen’s home province of Kampong Thom, she sees signs of change:

“I think that, like with the Cambodia culture, in my community they thought that if they talk about human trafficking or rape, that is not a good word to say. Especially for the woman, they feel shame or that it's not appropriate to talk about sexual matters.

But right now, it's not like that. Everybody can say and can report, it's better than not saying, better to talk to the police. Right now, we can talk about what is true.”

Muylen also spoke with great enthusiasm about development agency The FIELD Collaborative's recent training program, 'The Seeds of Leadership' which she attended in February 2015.

Over three days of training and dialogue, 'Seeds of Leadership' aimed to increase capacity-building amongst working women in Cambodia through four tier focuses – self-improvement, leading a team, influencing your organisation and training other leaders.

Speaking on the FIELD Collaborative blog, Vice President Karen Petersen found much to inspire in the women who contribute to today's Cambodian workforce:

‘In the bustling, often chaotic capital of Phnom Penh, we are visiting several NGO’s to gain insight into the work they are doing and meet with those who are bringing change to the gender imbalance here. We have met wonderful, courageous women leaders who work in project management, operations, finance, education, legal advocacy, social work and research.'

Looking to the future, Muylen’s thoughts are overwhelmingly positive, not only in working towards ending human trafficking, but for the future of women, equality and Cambodia.

“I have never before experienced the joy and satisfaction that I now have in my work. I am grateful that God has called me here, and I have great confidence in his plan for my life. I think that I have a golden chance to serve God by helping vulnerable women see that they have the same worth as men.”*

*(Taken from Orng. M., 'Washed Clean', Issue: Autumn 2013, Mutuality magazine, Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE))

16 March 2015

10 years of Chab Dai - Spotlight on Chan Saron

As we approach our 10 year anniversary as an organisation working towards ending human trafficking, we want to recognise the teams and individuals who have made us who we are today. This week, we focus on Chan Saron, Justice and Client Care Program Manager.

Chan Saron
Saron has worked for Chab Dai since 2008, having previously worked as a pastor in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. Initially a trainer in Chab Dai's Urban Prevention Project, Saron saw the birth of the Case Support Project, which began in 2011 as a first response to anyone who needs to report a case of trafficking or abuse. From finding a shelter to briefing families on court procedures and following-up with community leaders, Case Support coordinates referrals and provides practical support for clients.

“Before when we had the case team, we would refer to another organisation. However, as we received [approx] 100 cases a year, we found the organisations already had many cases to handle. So when we started Case Support in 2011, we divided into two teams –  social work and the prosecution follow-up teams. I am responsible for both teams; for managing all the cases.”

Cross-border trafficking cases

Case Support works a lot with local communities here in Cambodia, but 2014 saw the team continue to strengthen cross-border relations with many countries, including travelling to China in response to increasing numbers of forced marriage cases involving Cambodian women. Saron spoke of the unique challenges here:

“When we're dealing with overseas cases, there are often too few dedicated staff. What we need is someone working 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.”

Though these challenges are ongoing, there have been some more positive outcomes from these cases:

“This year, we had a complaint from a woman who said that her daughter was sold by a broker to China. The broker promised that her daughter would go to Singapore to work, but when the mother allowed her daughter to go with [him], he sold her to China for forced marriage.

"Meanwhile, the mother travelled from their home town to Phnom Penh, and sat near to another two young girls, asking them: 'Where are you going?'  So [the girl said] 'to work in Singapore' and when she asked the girl how, the two girls said 'I am going with this man who will get me a job'.

“The story was similar to her daughter’s, so she reported this to Chab Dai and when I reported this to the police, we assisted in the rescue of two girls and the arrest of the broker in Phnom Penh. After, the woman went back and related the story to the community.”

To stop it happening again? I ask Saron. “Yes, to stop it happening again.”

Therein lies the key to what Chab Dai is all about – asking the question how can human trafficking be prevented, as much as thinking about aftercare.

Helpcards from Chab Dai How has Chab Dai made a difference?

So how does Saron think Chab Dai has made an impact on the way human trafficking is handled in Cambodia in the last decade?

“We have already worked with the [Ministry of Interior] Department of Human Trafficking for three years - at first, [it was] hard. I think that through collaboration, this has now changed.

“Before, Cambodian police didn't have much training about this issue, only police at the top level. But the people who work directly with the case are the local police. So when we work with them, we always try to educate them. We also explain to them that you cannot handle a criminal case without filing a complaint to the court.

“[Chab Dai] also attends meetings at national level so our work with UNIAP [United Nations Inter-agency Project on Human Trafficking] is very important. Cambodia is a member of a committee of countries along the Mekong River, like China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, (COMMIT), so we're working together to combat human trafficking. We work to advocate for policy change, so if we have something that is not good, we will [raise] our concerns. They have the power to change the policy, and if we don't have the right policy, how can we protect the child?”

Finally, I ask, what makes Saron carry on working in this challenging field?

“I saw many Cambodian people, especially the poor, who had been abused by another person or had suffered injustice in Cambodian society. So I thought I should do something for the people, if I have the ability to.

"When I worked in the community as a pastor, the people around me were always coming to me, but
I did not know how to help them - I asked them to file a complaint to police, but when they went to the police, they didn't get any help.

"So it's this kind of problem that pushes me to work in Chab Dai; because Chab Dai can complete my vision. Finally, Cambodian society can have justice. Not all, but some parts can see justice.”

06 March 2015

Marking International Women's Day: Gender equality in Cambodia

By Kristina Novak and Laura Gavin.

International Women's DayAs our 10-year anniversary approaches here at Chab Dai, we've been looking back at human rights issues and asking ourselves what has changed, what has been challenged and what has improved in this time.

To coincide with International Women's Day on Sunday March 8th, as well as campaigns like the UN's #HeForShe movement, we decided to take a closer look at gender equality in Cambodia.

At Chab Dai, we're constantly working towards best practice with our members and stakeholders on this issue, addressing gender-based exploitation and discrimination within a human rights framework.

But how has gender equality moved forward since we opened our first office in 2005?

Women's rights and Cambodian culture

Since ratifying CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) back in 1992 and the Optional Protocol in 2011, Cambodia has adopted an official commitment to women’s rights. However, we still have a long way to go to see these rights in practice.

Women in this country still face centuries-old cultural norms stemming from the Chrab Srey moral code, one that dictates they should always respect the decisions of men, whether right or wrong.

A UN Women report stated that 'Women, who make up more than half the population, constitute the majority of the poor', while the Global Gender Gap report for 2014 ranked Cambodia at number 108 in the world – the lowest of the South-East Asian nations – on criteria such as education, economic participation and work opportunities.

With domestic violence against women also on the rise in recent years, we still face challenges in gender equality here, in the younger generations as well as the older.

Young couple, CambodiaThe next generation and gender equality

With around 50% of the country's population under the age of 25, it's important that the next generation is well-informed about gender equality. However, studies like Tong Soprach's 5-year longitudinal research on young people and Valentine's Day have shown that many have an unhealthy, and even dangerous approach to relationships between men and women.

Soprach's research showed that a large percentage of young men intended to have sex – consensual or not – on Valentine's Day, year on year. Though this decreased over time, it is an alarming dichotomy that instances of rape should occur on this day in February, mere weeks before we celebrate the empowerment of women on International Women's Day.

Once again, it's knowledge which could be part of the answer to changing these kind of attitudes towards gender.

Orng Muylen, Chab Dai Finance Director

Empowering women in Cambodia

Knowledge-sharing is one of our key prevention tools in the fight to stop human trafficking, and much of Chab Dai's training with communities addresses related issues like exploitation of women, and educating people on the value of women and children. We are also currently working on a dedicated gender inclusion policy, and many of our project managers and senior staff are women, including Finance & Operations Director, Orng Muylen.

On a more national level, women are becoming more prominent in politics, with the election of the first female Deputy Prime Minister, and an increase of nearly 10% in the number of women elected to parliament between 2003 and 2008. And in 2014, LICADHO made a report wherein women were not only classified as victims, but as protagonists: 'Women Land Campaigners and the Impact of Human Rights Activism' following women dealing with land conflicts.

The report also emphasised how this issue has been changing the attitudes of the women themselves: 'Our tradition says we should listen to our husbands. I decided to choose the community and continue with my activism'.

So as we reach our landmark anniversary and look forward to the next 10 years at Chab Dai, it's great to hear such stories of hope. As Muylen affirms:

'We are women, we do not work or follow what men are asking us...we need to stand up for what we have to do. We stand up for ourselves, we have a value, we are people just the same – if men can do something, we can do the same.'

Image of couple by Gunawan Kartapranata used under Creative Commons licence. All other images provided by Chab Dai.