Volunteers in Cambodia Motivate Local Leaders to Integrate Child Labor Eradication into their Work
Immediately following the 1993 UN-supervised elections in Cambodia, the Women Development Association (WDA), a Winrock CIRCLE partner, began strengthening rural people’s activities by helping them survive amidst massive poverty wrought by 13 years of civil war. WDA works in Prey Veng, the third poorest province, where 51% of the population live below the poverty line. Like many other rural communities in Cambodia, urban migration is a common reaction to poverty in Prey Veng; People leave in hopes finding better economic opportunities in the capital city or as far as Thailand.

A 2003 survey by the National Institute of Statistics showed that a growing number of children from Prey Veng migrated to Phnom Penh to seek employment. Serving mostly as domestic laborers, they often live in exploited living and working conditions. A 2004 study discovered an alarming number of children 5-14 years old who have never been to school and were driven to engage in various forms of child labor.
January 2006. In partnership with CIRCLE, WDA has chosen to work in 3 communes, 6 villages, and 6 schools to raise awareness about the hazards of child labor by educating the community. This story highlights the impact of their awareness raising activity among councilors.

As an initial step to reaching the community, WDA trained at least 3 volunteers from each of the villages to organize community-education campaigns, gather information on the child labor status of families, talk to families to reduce child labor and migration, encourage families to send out-of-schoolchildren back to school, and inquire about the situation of vulnerable children. It was through these volunteer Community Watch Groups that 9 commune councilors learned about the negative impact of child labor within their community and the rights of children.

The councilors were motivated by the volunteers. Whereas in the past these commune councilors merely waited in their offices to learn about village problems, now they visit homes where there are child laborers and inform families of the child’s rights. The more active councilors commented: “We are learning how volunteers influence parents to send children back to school…we see more children going back to school in our village… we are also getting to know new things about children’s school problems… we all have a role in encouraging children to get the education that we did not have…”

As a result of these community-education efforts against child labor, local school directors are able to report encouraging results. The project has reintegrated 55 out of 90 out-of-school children back to school during the 2005 enrollment in October, and encouraged parents of 108 out-of-school children in non-target areas to send their children to school and prevent them from engaging in harmful child labor.

Today, nine commune councilors prepare their annual work plan to incorporate education campaigns and information-sharing activities on child labor and education. This happens even in villages not targeted by the WDA.
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Ms. Long Srey Sour, secretary of the commune council of Angkor Reach presents the Commune Integrated Plan.