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”