For some time the Trustees of MSAVLC have been concerned about the appalling sex-trade that exists in Cambodia. Their particular concern is centred in Phnom Penh, which the Trustees have visited many times.
In Cambodia, one of the poorest nations in the world, the sexual exploitation of children is a thriving business, especially in the capital Phnom Penh and increasingly so in urbanising border areas…
Studies show as many as one third of sex workers in Cambodia are children under 18 years of age, and more than half of those forced into the sex industry are lured or sold into it by people they know.
Thousands of children and women are lured, sold and kidnapped into the sex industry each year. They are often betrayed by their neighbours, friends, relatives, guardians and even boyfriends or parents, and they are tricked with false promises of a better life or well-paid work. They are then forced to pay off ‘debts’ for transportation, health and living expenses, subdued with rape, violence and torture and sold from brothel to brothel. The sex trade feeds on the despair, ignorance and poverty of those it seeks to exploit.
Children on the Edge – unicef
The Trustees felt compelled to help in some way, and met with Ruth Elliott, a Cambridge University psychologist, who founded ‘Daughters of Cambodia’ in 2007. Daughters of Cambodia is a non-profit organization working with survivors of sex trafficking who have elected to leave the sex industry, but need assistance in order to do so.
Daughters helps young women and men escape the horrors of sex trafficking and start sustainable new lives for themselves, by providing dignified, rewarding employment, paired with vital health and support services, needed to aid their physical, psychological and social recovery from exploitation. They reach out to those who are trapped in the sex industry and offer them opportunities to walk free, start a new life and learn how to sustain it within community settings. Daughters operate non-residential centres in the heart of Phnom Penh’s red light areas, where young women, or young men, wishing to leave sex work are taught how to change their life-styles. They are provided with employment at one of their seven fair-trade businesses along with a range of social and psychological services.
Daughters of Cambodia has helped hundreds of girls to permanently walk free from sex-work and to experience psychological healing and improved quality of life. However, numbers are now capped due to lack of funds, which is their only limiting factor in terms of numbers.
They also have a program for male trans-sexual sex workers called Sons of Cambodia. As recovery takes place, many clients at Daughters become leaders and managers within the organization and are employed in roles including Business Managers, Head Chefs, Quality Control Managers, Order and Dispatch Controllers, Production Technical Trainers, Counsellors and Receptionists; many are found employment within the community. Daughters is a faith-based organization, and clients are offered opportunities to learn about the love of God at Daughters’ weekly Christian church, if they wish, but that is entirely voluntary.
Daughters run the Sugar’n Spice Café, which is based in their visitors’ centre in Phnom Penh, where delicious food is served. The visitors’ centre also incorporates a Hands’n Feet Spa and a boutique where products made in the Daughters’ workshops are sold. The girls are taught cooking, waitressing and customer services. They have also opened a Hotel near the Russian Market in Phnom Penh, called the White Linen Hotel, and this incorporates a café inside.
They have 3 workshops; a sewing room where clothes and furnishings are made, a silk screen workshop and a jewellery workshop. Here boys and girls are employed and taught a trade with good working conditions and wages, and they live independently within the community.
Most of the girls are aged from 18 to late twenties. They have little education so are offered educational opportunities and creative programmes such as music, art, photography, dance and design, which encourage self-confidence and self-esteem. There are medical clinics and antenatal clinics, and psychological counselling is available, as well as social workers who visit the girls in their own homes.
Trustees from MSAVLC visited Daughters of Cambodia in 2015 and were moved and humbled by the dedication of Ruth and her staff who are doing an incredibly difficult job with care, compassion and essential practical aid.
It was agreed to fund a proposal put forward to us by Daughters to support for a year, two councillors, a midwife and a security guard, food and medical supplies, and referrals, transportation and operational expenses.
MSAVLC hope to continue to support the vital work that Daughters doing, well into the future.