An Ounce of Prevention: Eradicating Trafficking of Girls in Cambodia

Trafficking of girls and women is one of the most serious human rights problems facing Cambodia today. In a country where the per capita income is one of the lowest in the world, and state support systems are negligible, unsuspecting victims are lured with false promises of jobs then forced into sex work or exploitative labor situations. Victims are controlled with threats, lies, drugs, physical force and often held in slave-like conditions. The objective of Japan Relief for Cambodia/American Assistance for Cambodia's (JRfC/AAfC) Girls be Ambitious program is to prevent the trafficking of Cambodian girls and women for sexual and labor exploitation through an incentive program for girls from poverty-stricken homes to stay in school and receive additional vocational training that will provide employment alternatives, income generation and social and political empowerment.

Among victims of trafficking, the group who are most vulnerable are illiterate girls who are enticed to migration and who are exploited en route and at their destination. Our program aims to improve awareness among these women at risk by providing them with alternatives close to home and ways to improve their livelihoods.The Girls be Ambitious program will run off of JRfC/AAFC's Cambodian School Project which currently manages 310 elementary and middle schools in rural villages (www.cambodiaschools.com). The Cambodia School Project, launched in 1999 through funding from private sectors and matching funds from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, is a school-building program in rural Cambodia in cooperation with the Cambodian Ministry of Education. The curriculum follows the Ministry of Education program but many of our schools have added "value" such as internet connection, computer and English-language training and a farming program. We are currently equipped with satellite dishes that provide internet connection to remote schools through a "Motoman system."

The Internet Village Motoman system is an innovative way of providing e-mail connection to villages where internet infrastructure does not exist. Every morning, motorcycles equipped with a wifi modem on the back upload e-mails addressed to schools on the route from a satellite dish installed at a hub school. Each motorcycle travels to schools on their route, also equipped with a wifi modem which uploads and downloads e-mails. We have successfully implemented this system in eight villages, shortly to be increased to 15, increasing village accessibility to 80, soon 150 villages.

The school project has been a success in terms of continual increase in student attendance and raising the level of education. Our surveys, however, show that attendance of girls remains low and as a result they stay illiterate. A further study showed that the main reason girls do not attend school is poverty and pressures upon them to help the family with work in the field, or to take care of younger siblings and stay home while the parents are farming in the fields . We identified and interviewed such girls and families in five villages and found that while they said they wanted to and promised to attend school, immediate economic pressures eventually prevented them from doing so. The Girls be Ambitious program provides an incentive for girls and their families to enable them to attend school by providing financial assistance of $10 a month, $120 a year for "perfect" attendance. Every month, the home room teacher will e-mail us an Excel attendance sheet for each sponsored girl. Our accountant will authorize immediate payment of $10 to the family if the girl had "perfect" attendance. If the girl does not have perfect attendance, she will not be paid that month and we will look into reasons why. If it is an illness, there will be a reduction in the stipend but other absences will be judged more severely.

At the start of the program, we will ask the participating families to sign an agreement to refund the money if the participant drops out within six months of the program's launch. We may not get all the funds back but feel this pressure will provide an incentive to fulfill the requirement of the program. To insure the integrity of the program, we will conduct spot checks by surveying fellow classmates and penalize teachers for any dishonesty with a reduction of their salary.

In addition to the regular school curriculum, participants of the Girls be Ambitious program will be provided with training in English, computer skills, handicrafts, agriculture and other vocational skills. Our awareness-raising program will include staff visits to villages and meetings with families of Girls be Ambitious participants, viewing visual aid training films, producing comic books and e-mailing frequent newsletters and educational materials to be posted on village bulletin boards.

We are also planning to gather all our village computer and English teachers, already directly assigned by us, graduates of the JRfC/AAfC-sponsored program at the Future Light Orphanage, to workshops where they will be briefed on the human trafficking problem in Cambodia and survey and reporting methodology. We will invite experts in the field of human trafficking to help us provide such training.

The program is intended to both prevent trafficking and empower women, now experiencing low status in their society. After one year, we will provide an in-depth report that can serve as a model to bring 50,000 Cambodian girls into the program as well as be replicated around the
world.

Because most of our rural schools will be able to access the internet and send and receive e-mail, we are unique in being capable of succeeding in running such a program.


Anyone wishing to be a sponsor of a needy girl, who will attend school
for one year, can contribute $120 (14,000 yen) by check or bank
transfer and have their name and the name and photo of the sponsored girl
on our upcoming website: GirlsBeAmbitious.com

Checks can be issued to *American Assistance for Cambodia* for $120. Contributions are tax deductible. AAfC is registered as a non-profit organization in Delaware and recognized by the IRS as a 501 (c) 3 organization for U.S. tax deductions. For information on obtaining a tax deduction in Japan, please contact us at: bernie@media.mit.edu

U.S. dollar checks payable to a U.S. bank account can be mailed to:

Bernard Krisher
American Assistance for Cambodia
4-1-7-605 Hiroo
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (150-0012) Japan

Or you may wire the funds to the account of: American Assistance for Cambodia in the Ridgewood Savings Bank, Queens Blvd. and 108 Street, Forest Hills, N.Y. 11375. The account number is: 648899 and the tracking number is 226071033. Add $10 for the bank incoming wire charge. Please advise us by e-mail, fax or mail when you have transferred funds.

In Japan the annual cost of sponsoring a poor village girl to attend school is: 14,000 yen. Funds can be transferred to:

the "Cambodia Jizen Kikkin" account in the Mitsui Sumitomo Bank, Hiroo Garden Hills Shucchojo, Futsu Yokin # 741291

Payment can also be made by credit card (VISA, MASTERS) with a $5 additional charge, and Paypal. For details please e-mail to: bernie@media.mit.edu