Preventing Family Migration and Child Trafficking in Cambodia

In Cambodia, poverty often forces parents to migrate for work — sometimes hundreds of miles away — which puts children at greater risk of malnutrition, trafficking and exploitation. But, by supporting microloans and women’s self-help groups, Holt sponsors and donors are helping families learn sustainable agriculture skills so they can independently provide for their children, without having to travel.

Cambodia garment factories
Trucks waiting to transport workers home from a garment shop in southwest Cambodia. Employees pay a monthly fee for this transportation.

At 4:30 p.m., the garment factories in southwest Cambodia are letting out for the day. Beyond the fences and gates that surround each giant, metal warehouse, a row of industrial flat-bed trucks wait, some already filling with women in bright pants and T-shirts. The two-lane road leading from the nation’s capital city, Phnom Penh, to the small fishing town of Kampot is stacked with these trucks — some with 20 or 30 passengers who sit in the back, shoulder to shoulder, their legs stretched straight. Some have more than 100 passengers, mostly women, who are packed so tightly they must stand with their stomach and back pressed into the women around them. The air is dusty as they drive, and many cover their faces with medical masks or scarves.

Cambodia garment factory women
During rush hour, the two-lane road connecting rural Kampot to Phnom Penh is packed with hundreds of trucks like this one transporting garment factory workers home. Some are even larger and transport more workers.

“When a truck wrecks, many women die,” Kosal Cheam, Holt’s director of programs in Cambodia, says grimly, shaking her head.

In Cambodia, poverty is so widespread that thousands of families are forced to migrate from rural areas to large cities like Phnom Penh or even bordering countries like Thailand to find work — often low-paying jobs in crowded garment factories. Agriculture, mainly rice production, is the dominant economic driver in the region and many families survive on what they grow. But drought is a common occurrence. And when nothing grows, many families are out of work. Continue reading “Preventing Family Migration and Child Trafficking in Cambodia”

She Could Be Any Girl

In Cambodia, as more and more families migrate from rural villages in search of work, their children are placed at greater risk of exploitation and trafficking. Here, in one rural province, Holt is working to keep children safe in the care of their families and communities.

A young girl — 13 years old — just had her last day of school. Not because the school year ended and let out for the summer. And not because she graduated one grade to move on to the next. For this girl, her last day of school came abruptly — disrupting her education when it all but started. Next week she will move to the city, all alone, where she’ll start work. She was promised a good job, but she knows better than that. She’ll probably work in a garment factory or maybe as a maid in someone else’s house, with long hours and meager pay. Her mother worries and tells her to be careful of strange men who may seem nice at first, but may want to hurt her. She is scared and doesn’t want to leave her friends and village, but she knows she must go to make money and help her family.

This girl could be any girl in the Prey Veng province of Cambodia. Continue reading “She Could Be Any Girl”