After receiving some questions on the lives of the girls in my last post, I’ve done some research and find that thousands of girls in Cambodia are one step away from a life none of us would want for ourselves or our children. Many of them already have taken that step. Cambodia is an extremely poor country that was devastated by the deindustrialization, back-to-the-country movement forced on Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge. The new government is trying to rebuild but they have a long way to go. Girls, who have never been highly valued in the country, pay a heavy price for the joint condition of being poor and female.
My last post talked about keeping 28 girls in school. Drops in the bucket, but each one of these girls represent the condition of many of the girls in the country. They are victims of abuse or are rescued sex workers. Over 30% of the people in the large sex industry in Cambodia are under 18 and the vast majority of them are girls. Most of these girls have been kept out of school by their parent’s poverty and isolation. The Cambodian government “guarantees” public school through secondary education (9th grade), but the system is decentralized so poor rural schools are inadequate. Teachers are often paid only $10.00 per month, so they often start their own tutoring service or work in private schools. If the best education is for pay, in poor areas, it is the boys who go to these schools. Girls are kept home to work in the fields or find a job to help support the family. Many families are tricked into sending their daughters off for “good jobs” when their real destination is sexual slavery.
Rape is often the entry-level crime that leads the victims into the sex industry. In Cambodia, a girl’s virginity is highly valued. Rape brings shame and stigma to a girl, making it more likely that parents will send the girl away or consent to their child leaving home for one of these “good jobs”. Once out of school and the family’s sight, the terrible exploitation begins.
Non-profits and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are aware of these conditions and are attempting to enhance the life chances of girls in this society. The Cambodian Center for Children’s Rights, which was featured in last week’s post, runs several shelters and schools. There, girls who have been exploited are identified and rescued, are rehabilitated through academic and life skills training, and are reintegrated back into society with the hope of a better life.
Here are some links for more information: