Fighting vulnerability in Cambodia: empowering youth to secure sustainable livelihoods
Cambodia is a thriving country with 7% annual economic growth in 2015 and as such the country is now transitioning to a lower middle income status. However, the country still faces many obstacles as part of its development process. With 51% of its population under the age of 25 years old, many such challenges are faced by the country’s youth. High drop-out rates from main stream education by youth has led to many young people lacking tangible skills to gain meaningful employment opportunities leaving them at risk of exploitation and human trafficking. For those that do find employment, it is often in low skilled jobs with high risk of sexual gender-based violence against women, and labour rights abuses for youth in general. As a result, ACTED is working to reduce the risk of sexual gender-based violence against female hostesses in Phnom Penh; improving labour law compliance in the Cambodian hospitality sector and providing access to innovative Non-Formal Education to vulnerable youth in the province of Prey Veng.
Empowering rural youth to secure sustainable livelihoods
With a 53.75% rate of secondary school drop-out, youth from Prey Veng Province lack the practical skills they need to secure viable employment and livelihoods. As a result, youth are highly vulnerable to urban migration for work purposes, which can sometimes lead to exploitative labour practices, drug abuse and prostitution. To prevent these issues at the core, ACTED and its local partner Khmer Youth Association (KYA) are developing a Community Learning Center (CLC) pilot model. This sustainable and inclusive model will offer youth from four communes in Svay Antor District both basic education (functional literacy, life skills) and vocational training in order to secure income-generating employment.
Fighting and preventing sexual and gender based violence in Phnom Penh
The hospitality industry (restaurants, bars, karaokes) in Phnom Penh is booming, attracting many rural and urban young women to work in these establishments as hostesses and waitresses. This working environment makes women particularly vulnerable, notably in terms of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV). In 2015, ACTED continued supporting victims of SGBV through the provision of psychological and legal support services. In addition, ACTED provided outreach sessions to female workers, helping them understand their basic rights and providing them with tools and skills to prevent acts of SGBV from happening in their workplace.
Workers Sabay, Tourists Sabay!
Despite a growing number of tourists visiting the country each year, Cambodia faces a lack of labour law compliance amongst businesses in the tourism sector. To address this issue, in 2015, ACTED worked with businesses who offer fair working conditions to their employees by certifying them, conjointly with the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, as “Workers Sabay” (“happy workers” in Khmer). The Workers Sabay scheme supports the improvement of hospitality workers’ labour rights and working conditions. Ethical tourism and certified businesses are also promoted through advertising campaigns in Cambodia and Europe, targeting international tourists visiting the country.
Building and Expanding upon Best Practices
Looking ahead to 2016, ACTED will continue its activities in order to promote inclusive and sustainable growth in Cambodia. This will include continuous support to survivors of SGBV in their workplace, as well as certifying 290 businesses in Phnom Penh as “Workers Sabay”. 2016 will also see 4 pilot CLCs open in Prey Veng Province and start training youth in the practical skills they need to secure sustainable employment. These pilot CLCs will replicate the model in 2 government-run CLCs, marking the first step towards national replication of the model. ACTED will advocate for further replication at national level with the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS) and other key development partners, including the NGO Education Partnership (NEP).
Investing in the next generation through grassroots community learning centres
In 2015, ACTED continued its commitment to improving working conditions within the Cambodian hospitality industry. This included renewing its efforts to tackle rising rates of SGBV as well as continuing to encourage business owners to adopt ethnical business practices, particularly in terms of employee working conditions. In addition, 2015 has seen ACTED work with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to establish a community learning centre model with the aim of providing young Cambodians with the necessary practical skills to secure employment thereby avoiding the need to migrate in order to find work.