Why does it happen?
The Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970’s and subsequent civil war into the 1990’s dismantled every part of Cambodian society. However, Cambodian women have faced slavery and sexual abuse even before this devastating era.
There is an old Khmer saying:
“Men are like gold and women are white cloth.” When white cloth is stained, it is ruined and worthless, but gold always retains its value.
Civil war, genocide and the subsequent impact of post-traumatic stress have allowed the social fabric of society to unravel. Unresolved anger and pain felt by so many has resulted in extensive domestic violence and an environment where the weakest can be taken advantage of and abused. Substance abuse and gambling have led many Cambodians, already living in extreme poverty, into further debt. Families become desperate for income and, many become vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.
We believe that there is hope even in the midst of darkness. We work to empower Cambodians and confront exploitation through these 4 key areas.
Equip Cambodians to prevent exploitation
One way to confront human trafficking and exploitation is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Ratanak seeks to address the root causes of exploitation by teaching villagers what human trafficking is and how it works. The training is entirely community-based and indigenous, run by Cambodians who minister to their own people. It has grown into a respected institution where village chiefs, local police, pastors and government officials all study together for the protection and blessing of the families around them. We also believe that prevention requires both awareness and opportunities, and seek to equip the vulnerable with sustainable living opportunities.
Work collaboratively to protect the vulnerable
Ratanak is passionate in our desire to assist in the rebuilding of social structures that will allow this beautiful country to once again care for and protect its own people. Our programs address the needs of those who are marginalized by society and left without support due to a lack of social or government structures.
Help the trafficked return home
As Cambodia emerges from decades of conflict and war that destabilized the nation’s economy and societal structure, rapid economic growth has increased the gap between the poor and the rich. This growth is largely evident in urban centres, and not in rural areas where 91% of the poor live. An inadequate education system and limited vocational opportunities, especially for youth, have led to a large number of unskilled workers unable to find employment to support their families. In search of more opportunities, workers leave their families for urban centres, or cross the border to nearby countries, where they are highly vulnerable to exploitation. Many of them are trafficked or forced into labour and sexual exploitation. Ratanak collaborates with embassies, government officials, and local authorities to bring Cambodians who have been trafficked overseas back home to their families. We provide counselling, care packages, medical check-ups and offer them the opportunity to develop skills that can equip them to safely support their families in the future. We also seek to promote safe migration to decrease the risk of trafficking and re-trafficking.
Persevere in love to restore survivors
After survivors of exploitation have escaped or been rescued, they still face a long journey of healing to find freedom psychologically and emotionally. Often the transition out of that life is difficult and sometimes even life-threatening. The effects of repeated trauma are long-term, and last for years. They endure social stigma on a daily basis, and must still find ways to support their families despite few opportunities for jobs or an education. We empower survivors, once vulnerable, exploited and oppressed, to live with dignity and hope. With continued counselling, life skills training, education, and a supportive community environment, young women are provided the emotional and physical skills and self-reliance needed for a successful life away from exploitation.