When Miss Seng Khim* was sold to a brothel in Phnom Penh, she could never forget the family she was forced to leave behind in Kandal province. Seng, a former AFESIP resident, is now a proud and self-assured young woman with Voices for Change. Sensing that her younger sister Khara* was also vulnerable to the same fate, Seng asked that Khara be brought to Somaly House Center in Kampong Cham Province.
Young girls from impoverished backgrounds are the most in danger of being exploited, as poor families tend to incur debts that compel them to sell their daughters to brothel owners and human traffickers. AFESIP works to help women and girls who are victims of this and other forms of exploitation rehabilitate and rebuild their lives. Similarly, Voices for Change is an initiative that gives former AFESIP residents like Seng an opportunity to educate others about their experiences.
The Somaly House in Kampong Cham province offers girls like Khara guidance, education, and protection from the threat of human trafficking. Unfortunately, Khara’s physical and mental disabilities were beyond the capacity of the caretakers at the center and AFESIP staff made the difficult and unprecedented decision to have Khara return to her mother’s home.
The girls’ mother had no steady income and moved depending on where she could secure seasonal odd-jobs. When AFESIP staff found her, she was living as a squatter in a small house on a modest patch of land in an area partitioned for road development and under constant threat of being demolished. Their mother asked AFESIP to purchase the land in an effort to gain some security in her and Khara’s living situation. In addition, their mother hopes to grow vegetables, raise poultry, and pursue some small business endeavors. AFESIP sees this land purchase as an opportunity to empower two generations of women, improve their livelihoods, and break the cycle of poverty that left Seng and Khara vulnerable to exploitation.
*Names have been changed.