Proud to Be a Girl: Empowering Girls in Cambodia

by Hagar USA, which supports the work of Hagar International
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Proud to Be a Girl: Empowering Girls in Cambodia
Proud to Be a Girl: Empowering Girls in Cambodia
Proud to Be a Girl: Empowering Girls in Cambodia
Proud to Be a Girl: Empowering Girls in Cambodia
Proud to Be a Girl: Empowering Girls in Cambodia

Key Results (latest 6 months):

  • 245school girls were able to access a community mobile reading center during COVID-19
  • 104 foster clients and their foster parents received training on child protection and attention, discriptionation against children and positive parenting

Survivor Story:

One day when Kanha was on her way home from school, a man approached her and forced her to follow him to a quiet and less populated space. There, he raped her, leaving Kanha both physically hurt and emotionally traumatised. The trauma of this event resulted in Kanha having terrible nightmares and reflecting on the event often. She also faced discrimination from people in her community and her own family who all looked at her differently as a result. It was in this season of her life (at 17 years of age) that Kanha got referred to Hagar Cambodia and she received support services from the team in Battambang. 

The Hagar Cambodia team supported Kanha to recover from her trauma. She received case management and counselling services and Hagar also helped and encouraged her continue her studies as well (which her family had wanted her to discontinue). She is now working for another NGO that Hagar partners with as a child educator in her community and teaches others about child protection and development.

Kanha is now healed and thriving and wants to use her skills and experiences to help other children who have little opportunity and challenges in their lives too. She is due to finish her university study at the end of 2021.

She says of her time with Hagar:

“I got a lot of support for my emotion and economy, especially my study till I am able to use my knowledge to support back to my community children in my provinces…I am happy to share back my resource and knowledge to my people and I do hope that one day I will fully become the full support to them.”

Kanha is truly an example of what the long-term love and support of Hagar donors and staff can achieve in a person’s life. Together, we have seen transformation!

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Since our last update, the following miilestones were achieved within the Empower Girls in Cambodia program:

  • 85 school-age clients received appropraite formal education opportunities
  • 30 young women received job placements or small business support to improve their income during the economic crisis, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 23 female clients were represented by a lawyer to support them with bringing their perpetrator to justice

Here is one story of hope.

 

Kanha's Story

One day when Kanha was on her way home from school, a man approached her and forced her to follow him to a quiet and less populated space. There, he raped her, leaving Kanha both physically hurt and emotionally traumatised. The trauma of this event resulted in Kanha having terrible nightmares and reflecting on the event often. She also faced discrimination from people in her community and her own family who all looked at her differently as a result. It was in this season of her life (at 17 years of age) that Kanha got referred to Hagar Cambodia and she received support services from the team in Battambang.

The Hagar Cambodia team supported Kanha to recover from her trauma. She received case management and counselling services and Hagar also helped and encouraged her continue her studies as well (which her family had wanted her to discontinue). She is now working for another NGO that Hagar partners with as a child educator in her community and teaches others about child protection and development.

Kanha is now healed and thriving and wants to use her skills and experiences to help other children who have little opportunity and challenges in their lives too. She is due to finish her university study at the end of 2021.

She says of her time with Hagar:

“I got a lot of support for my emotion and economy, especially my study till I am able to use my knowledge to support back to my community children in my provinces…I am happy to share back my resource and knowledge to my people and I do hope that one day I will fully become the full support to them.”

Kanha is truly an example of what the long-term love and support of Hagar donors and staff can achieve in a person’s life. Together, we have seen transformation!

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Makara is seven, and her big sister Sopheak is nine. They live in a rural province in Cambodia with their grandmother, who they moved in with a couple of years ago when their parents moved away. In the months that followed their move, both Makara and Sopheak were raped by a relative.

The girls had experienced severe trauma and were referred to Hagar for comprehensive care. Our case manager ensured that both Makara and Sopheak were safe and received trauma counselling, as well as school support and daily food support. Their case was brought to trial, and Hagar’s legal officer carefully explained what they could expect during the court process, and prepared the girls extensively so that they wouldn’t be re-traumatised throughout it.

“At first I was scared of the people in the courtroom, but they talked to me very kindly. I was happy to have my mum, grandma, my counsellor, the legal officer and my lawyer with me in court. If I went there alone, I would have been scared of court.”- Makara.

“Both girls testified very clearly and confidently in Court. They are very brave and I am really proud of them.”- Sotheary, Hagar’s Legal Officer

At the conclusion of the trial, the perpetrator was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for rape with aggravating circumstances. Now, Makara and Sopheak have been able to return to a sense of normalcy. The girls love to play hide and seek, and Sopheak loves to dance. Sopheak helps around the house after school and teaches Makara to read and write; she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.
We are committed to walking the whole journey with Sopheak and Makara, and many women and girls like them.

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At only 20 years old, Ryma owns one of the most popular hair and beauty salons in town. Although it’s a new venture, Ryma is full of hope for how it will provide for her in the future. She didn't have that sense of hope when she first came to Hagar.

Ryma grew up in a province on the border of Cambodia and Thailiand. Her parents were subsistence farmers and were often out farming. They rarely had time to watch over her and her six siblings, and she often felt unsafe as she travelled to and from school.

One day in the middle of the summer, a high ranking soldier kidnapped her. She was 17 years old. He raped her multiple times over the two days that he kept her. She was locked up in his living quarters and begged to be let free but he refused. He injured her face, eyes and stomach. Ryma was afraid he would kill her.

After two days, the soldier finally released her and took her back to her home, on condition that she lied and said she had had an accident on the way home. Ryma agreed, but as soon as she arrived home, she told her mother what had happened. When the soldier found out she had told her parents, he said he would marry her. But her parents said no, they wanted justice for their daughter.

They refused to marry her off and filed a complaint at the provincial court against him with support from ADHOC. The man bribed the court to pay a fine of $5,000 and he was released, due to his high rank in the army.

Ryma was referred to Hagar where she was placed in a secure home for women who have survived abuse. She stayed there for over a year, where she slowly started regaining self-worth, belief in herself and a better future.

“Hagar counsellors made me realise my potential, they helped me process what I went through and I feel better. I used to feel worried and scared, but I began talking to more people and opening up about the happiness of everyday life, and opportunities for me here"

Ryma excelled during her catch up education. That fall, Ryma was reintegrated back into her community, where she continued to receive close counselling and mentoring from Hagar. With advice from her case manager, Ryma was encouraged to think about her future. She decided to train as a hairdresser. Recently, she married a man who loves her very much.

“I’ve also had a lot of time to think about my ordeal and how I could help prevent other girls in being in the same vulnerable place I was in. I understand more about personal safety and tell all my friends about how they should be vigilant, yet bold and strong.”

Additional quotes:

“I don’t feel too anxious anymore. I want to focus on the future, and show that women like me can still be business women and earn an income for my future family. It’s not because I suffered abuse that I will let my life stop”

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Sophea grew up out the back of a
market. Her life was not easy. One day, her
father took her to the market and handed her
to a woman he knew.
“My father just looked at me, allowing her
to take me, without saying a word.”
Sophea was pushed into a car and driven far
away to a home where she was kept in slavery,
required to work hard and severely abused.
She was only four years old.
Sophea told us through tears:
“I just wanted to be like a normal child,
going to school with loving parents.”
Everyone was violent towards her – even the
children. She tried to run away many times
but each time the family would catch her and
become more violent towards her.
One day, Sophea took one of the children’s
bicycles and pedalled as fast as she could
for as long as she could. Eventually, she was
stopped by some people who said she was
too young to be riding alone in the dark.
They took her to the village chief, who
referred her to Hagar.
“When I first came to Hagar, I was so
happy. Happy to escape a life of violence
and running away. Happy that I had found
a safe place. I found parents who loved me
and gave me a chance to go to school.
I finally got what I always wanted.”

Of course, that was just the beginning of
Sophea’s long journey to healing. Now a young
woman, with Hagar’s support Sophea has
graduated from university with a Bachelor
of Social Work and works for an organisation
that empowers Cambodian girls through
education.
“Through the years, my passion to help girls
like me has become stronger,” she says.
In 2017, Sophea boarded a plane for the very
first time to come to Australia. Here, she gave
powerful evidence to a Parliamentary Inquiry
into whether Australia should introduce a
Modern Slavery Act.
Today, the Modern Slavery Act is law in
Australia. It requires large companies to
publicly report each year on the steps they
are taking to guard against slavery in their
supply chains.
Many individuals and organisations
contributed to achieving this great outcome.
Yet, it was so crucial for our lawmakers to
hear directly from someone who had actually
experienced slavery and Hagar is so proud of
the role Sophea played.

Thank you
“I want to thank every one of you…
If not for people like you who help
girls like me, I wouldn’t be here today…
Thank you for walking with
me in this journey.”
Sophea

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Organization Information

Hagar USA, which supports the work of Hagar International

Location: Charlotte, NC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hagar_USA
Project Leader:
Jennifer Valliant
Communications Specialist
Charlotte, NC United States
$7,680 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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