Cambodia: Fight against child labor gets $10 million boost

A new child labor prevention program in Cambodia will target children engaged in commercial sex work, brick-making, agriculture, fishing, begging, souvenir selling, and domestic labor.

By James Addis, World Vision U.S., with reporting from Vichheka Sok, World Vision Cambodia.
Published January 15, 2013 at 12:00am PST

An estimated one in four Cambodian children between ages 5 and 17 are forced to work due to extreme poverty, many with the additional burden of being forced to work to pay off family debts.

Until recently, that number included 15-year-old Dara, who was forced to stack bricks in a factory, earning about a dollar a day.

Hazardous work puts children at risk

Both Dara’s legs and feet are badly deformed, and he is unable to wear shoes — meaning his feet had no protection from broken bricks and debris that littered the factory floor.

“I used to dream of having nice shoes to wear and it not hurt,” he says.

Common problems experienced by child laborers in Cambodia include sustaining injuries due to unsafe working conditions, working long hours, and being exposed to dangerous chemicals.

Those in the fishing industry often work at night, are subject to prolonged immersion in water, and risk drowning.

Sponsorship provides escape from dangerous labor

Things changed when Dara was enrolled in a World Vision child sponsorship program that provided support for him to leave the factory and attend school.

An outstanding student, Dara is now treated with respect. Before, he was mocked by other children because of his disability.

Child labor prevention bolstered by U.S. support

With support from a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, a new program to combat exploitative child labor in Cambodia will help more children like Dara transition out of harmful labor by providing support for them to attend school.

The program, known as EXCEL (Eliminating Exploitative Child Labor through Education and Livelihoods), was designed by and will be managed by World Vision and several Cambodian nongovernmental organizations.

The program will cover six provinces and will target children engaged in commercial sex work, brick-making, agriculture, fishing, begging, souvenir selling, and domestic labor.

Help will include paying for basic school supplies, monitoring academic progress, and providing catch-up classes. The program will also bolster the earning power of families whose children opt to leave the workforce and attend school.

Assistance will include teaching improved agricultural techniques to increase family food production; offer training in non-agricultural skills to diversify income sources; and provide money-management training to help families avoid falling into debt.

Cambodia and beyond

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs grant is the fourth major grant to combat child labor secured by World Vision’s U.S. office within the last 12 months.

The grants total $38.2 million and are expected to help about 120,000 children and their families escape the grip of exploitative labor in Cambodia, the Philippines, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.

How you can help

Pray for children who are vulnerable to exploitation. Pray that their parents might gain sustainable income to support their families, and pray that these children would have access to education.

Make a one-time donation to our Children in Crisis Fund. Help provide formerly exploited children with necessities like medical care, food, counseling, education, and more.

Give monthly to help exploited children. Your monthly contribution will support World Vision recovery centers, which offer safe shelter, food, medical care, and trauma recovery assistance for girls and boys who have faced abuse. Your gifts will also help us advocate for the protection of these children at both the local and international level.