30 April 2015

Will Cambodia’s domestic workers be celebrating this Labor Day?

The Triumph of Labor
Not to be confused with the US Labor Day in September, International Labor Day stems from the 19th century labor movement against long hours and poor rates of pay, and the birth of trade unions in places like the United States and United Kingdom. Today, International Labor Day means celebrating and standing up for worker’s rights all over the world.

In Cambodia, working conditions are often unjust, badly paid and can be abusive, and one sector where this is particularly prevalent is domestic work. Those who work in housekeeping, cooking and cleaning claim they are not treated like ‘real’ workers under Cambodian law and have been struggling to have their rights heard in recent years.

Add to this ongoing issues with human trafficking for labor to other countries in Southeast Asia, notably for low-paid or near-slave-like domestic work and there can be little to celebrate this Labor Day.

Phnom Penh has seen big street campaigns for better working conditions in the last few years, with some of the strongest protests coming from garment workers, another sector notorious for poor conditions. But where does the Cambodian domestic worker stand this May 1st?

Domestic issues in Cambodia

Cambodia has yet to ratify Convention 189 from the ILO, which sets out minimum standards for the treatment of domestic workers and would ensure better protection for Cambodian staff working in Cambodia.

Since 2012, the Cambodian Domestic Network (CDWN) - the first union to protect the rights of domestic staff in the country – has been working specifically with the government towards getting these international standards met.

But stories continue to emerge of six or seven day weeks, wages as low as $75 or even $50 a month and no provision for things like maternity leave and childcare. Cambodia’s domestic workforce, the majority of which constitutes women, are not given a fair deal. Moreover, living in with their employers, many are left vulnerable to exploitation, isolation and sexual abuse.

woman cooking

Labor trafficking abroad

The lack of protection for domestic workers in neighbouring countries like Malaysia led the Cambodian government to ban the migration of Cambodian domestic workers there in 2011.

However, only this year, Chab Dai has dealt with a case of domestic labor trafficking to Malaysia. A woman was told she could find work as a hairdresser by an agency in Cambodia and that the company in Malaysia would cover all her transport, visa and food costs upfront in exchange for her first 3 months wages. When she arrived in Malaysia, she was actually sent to work as a domestic worker, toiling from morning until midnight and often with only one or two breaks for food.

Fortunately, the woman’s parents reported this case to the Chab Dai Case Support Team so that they could work with the Cambodian Embassy to repatriate her. She now works as a kitchen hand in a rural province in Cambodia.

This is just one case we have been able to intervene with and in this instance, we were able to secure a good resolution. Chab Dai retains a close relationship with the Embassy in Malaysia, as well as others in Thailand and China to deal with these illegal, cross-border migrations more effectively.

But as offices and businesses across the country – and the globe - close for the public holiday this Friday, it’s likely that not all domestic workers in Cambodia will be able to join with the celebrations, or get their voices heard.

‘The Triumph of Labor’ image by Rasnaboy, used under Creative Commons licence. Image of woman cooking owned by Chab Dai.

26 April 2015

Why collaboration works

We’ve been asking some of the members who have joined our coalition over the last decade to share their thoughts on collaborating with Chab Dai. This week, Dale Edmonds of Riverkids Foundation describes her journey and how Chab Dai has helped this once-small NGO to grow…

“When we started our small charity, Riverkids Foundation, in Cambodia nearly a decade ago,
we had a handful of staff, big ideas and dreams and a tiny budget for about fifty children. Now we reach over six hundred children directly each month, and we've worked with more than a thousand families at risk of abusing and trafficking their children, including families where children were sold to factories, forced marriages, paedophile rings by foreigners, gang rapes, incest, infant deaths and worse.

The families we work with are among the most difficult and heartbreaking, with complex multi-generational dysfunction and complications of addiction, deep poverty and discrimination. And yet we've managed to bring the rate of trafficking in our families to less than 1%. Next month we will formally graduate over twenty of our families as 'Jasmine Elephant' families with a community celebration - this means that they have become so stable and supportive of their children that they can now leave our programme and flourish on their own.

Chab Dai helped us do that. While Chab Dai doesn't work directly with families, they took a tiny new organisation and made us far stronger by introducing us to other partner organisations with a shared vision to protect children, providing free or very heavily subsidised training for our social workers and staff, giving our managers and team leaders support and encouragement that could only come from a trusted local partner, and even funding very technical and specific programme gaps that were too difficult for most donors to understand the need for.

Chab Dai has created a community that cares for children in Cambodia and supported us so
well - I think we would have closed at several points if it hadn't been for the advice and help
you gave us. Without Chab Dai, there is no way we would be capable of reaching so many

On a personal note, in my own journey to build a Cambodian child protection charity that truly helps the children and families first, some of the key lessons I've learned have been from Chab Dai. From the importance of building a team of staff who respect and value children's rights, to understanding how child safety and privacy matters when fundraising - it's easy to exploit the vulnerable children's stories for funding but we would lose their trust in us. I've also found the value of gauging the real needs of the community through first-hand research and using Chab Dai's wonderful in-house library of resources before rolling out a programme.

And even more personally: when we first met, I hadn't been to church since I was a child. Part
of my disillusionment was from the message that Christian organisations cared more about converting than helping, and children going hungry on the streets outside big brand-new church buildings in Cambodia didn't help. But Helen and two other missionaries I met in Cambodia - women who worked in the field building up communities and showing love and true charity to everyone, not just the people who went to their church - spoke to me more loudly than any sermon could.” 

Dale Edmonds

*Photographs used with the permission of Riverkids.

13 April 2015

10 years of Chab Dai – from Facilitator to National Director

Continuing our series spotlighting individuals who’ve helped the organisation grow in the last 10 years, this week we talk to National Director and long-time staff member, Ros Yeng…

Our story began back in 2005, and Ros Yeng was one of just three members of staff at the time, sharing an office with World Hope International (we now have a workforce of more than 40 at our independent offices in Phnom Penh!). Having worked as a pastor and counsellor prior to Chab Dai, Yeng was initially hired as a Facilitator and back then his role was varied, planting the first seeds of Chab Dai’s prevention programmes out in the provinces of Cambodia…

The growth of human trafficking prevention

“When I started, I knew some friends working in the church who didn't know how to help with the human trafficking issue - I went to visit many pastors in Battambang, and only two of them knew about the issue.

These pastors, they worked on Sunday at the church but Monday to Friday, they had other jobs, working on their own business as a tuktuk driver or a farmer. So they would sometimes take some boys from the field, into the town to meet foreigners in a hotel and the foreigners gave them a lot of money.

They didn't understand – perhaps they expected that the foreigners love the kids, gave them some food or had a gift for the boys, something like that. This is why I started to do prevention in those times.”

The prevention project Yeng first started was called the Church and Community programme, originally aimed at preventing child trafficking by empowering community leaders to educate their communities, to intervene with suspected cases of abuse like the above and to be able to support survivors. Chab Dai now run three more comprehensive human trafficking prevention programs that have grown from this - Safe Community, Ethnic Community and Community Heroes - Yeng sees these as the ‘fruit’ of his early successes. 

Networking at a National Level

So how about his role now?

“Chab Dai is quite changed from the beginning – the first four, five years, I was working on coalition-building, prevention, everything. Then in 2010, Helen [International Director and Founder] handed the leadership of Chab Dai Cambodia over to me.

“Now I work on organisation development, spending time with the Steering Committee, to help support and guide the direction in which Chab Dai is going. It's important that I work with the government as well – with the National Committee to Lead the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labour Exploitation and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children.”

Yeng’s work has progressed from local to national level in the last decade, and a large part of his current position involves meeting with and educating the Cambodian government to promote the cause of anti human trafficking.

“We have built up a relationship from 2009 until now, so we have gained the trust from the government  – they know we are focused on stopping human trafficking.”

After a whole decade working at Chab Dai, Yeng believes he is fulfilling God's plan for him:

“We have a passion to help the children, to help and improve the local people. I believe that through Chab Dai, we are showing God's love to bring justice and empowerment to communities.'

If you want to hear more about Yeng's work, he will be speaking at the Justice Conference Asia later this month (April 30 - May 2). Leave us a comment below or tweet us your thoughts @chabdai using the hashtag #10yearsofChabDai.

02 April 2015

The frontline of human trafficking aftercare: training for members

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a session aimed at frontline and administrative staff working in human trafficking, giving me a good idea of the kind of training that the Chab Dai coalition offers its member NGOs. Led by paediatrician, health consultant and founder of Relentless, Dr Katherine Welch, the one-day "Essential Health Components of an Aftercare Assistance Program" Workshop covered common issues facing professionals working to support those affected by human trafficking and abuse.

Understanding the key issues

The morning session was spent identifying those common issues, discussing best practices such as ‘universal precautions’ to do with hygiene and patient care, confidentiality and recording medical information. As many of the participants I met work in environments such as shelters and re-training centres and are used to meeting with vulnerable, injured and distressed clients, Dr Welch talked through the importance of seeing beyond physical symptoms to the root mental causes they might suggest. There was even advice on advocacy - on how to assert patient rights and challenge medical practitioners if necessary.
“You learned from the health training with Dr Katherine. She took an interest in the topics and shared them well…thank you for having this kind of practical workshop” Chandra Chap, Garden of Hope Foundation - Pleroma Home for Girls 

The tools to fight human trafficking

After lunch, it was time to drill down to more practical tips and tools to take away. The longer term continuity of care - what hospital, counselling and family planning services a client may need access to – was discussed, as well as everyday challenges that are not always obvious, such as client awareness of basic meal-planning and nutrition.

The day ended with a look at some example case studies. Participants split into groups to discuss what their responses would be in the face of certain scenarios, from attempted suicide to re-integration and sexual harassment.

Supporting each other in the field

The response to the training session on the day was really positive and everyone I spoke with seemed to be on the same page when it came to sensitive, case-by-case handling of their work. Participants also had the chance to give feedback and make suggestions for future workshops.

Working in Communications, I don’t have direct experience of what working in anti human trafficking actually means for care workers, nurses, residential managers and other frontline staff. But as the session ended, I felt I had gained a real insight into the day-to-day questions that arise from aftercare, how every precaution must be taken and every consideration to the client’s situation, history and feelings must be made.

It seemed to me that training like this is incredibly valuable to those who do work in this often harrowing field, not only for sharing knowledge and experience, but for supporting each other to carry on.
"Katherine was so knowledgeable in the area which was really helpful, and it was good having medical practitioners from Phnom Penh as well, to give local advice. The training was just what I needed." Ellen Wood, Agape International Missions.