In the context of Southeast Asia, and more specifically Cambodia, historical and cultural factors make sex trafficking endemic. The Khmer Rouge engendered a complete breakdown of civil society, with a large segment of the population systematically murdered, starved, and traumatized. With a focus on rapid de-urbanization and a poorly planned return to an agricultural society, the infrastructure of Cambodia was destroyed. The Cambodian people are still recovering in the aftermath of catastrophe, living without rule of law, without basic necessities, and in extreme poverty — the average Cambodian lives on $360 USD a year.
Cambodia is at a crossroads. There is an old mentality that is close-minded and patriarchal that is still common among the older generation and remains common in rural areas. The younger generation is experiencing a passed-down trauma and inheriting these norms. 50 percent of the population is 25 or younger, due to the genocide of the 1970s — Cambodia’s future is in the hands of the young. By capturing their attention and directing their energy toward rejecting the current norms, we can alter the course of history.
Our team has already begun to work with this population by forming student coalitions; by spearheading an anti-trafficking group of service providers, police, government officials, and survivors; and by planning annual anti-trafficking day conferences and concerts to facilitate public dialogue. We have also begun to humanize the victims in the public eye by training survivors as public speakers and encouraging them to share their stories and give a face and voice to this criminal act. We are a part of the global movement to elevate women and girls and champion gender equality for the betterment of society as a whole.