Student Organizations Can Improve Global Health
Many of the health crises in the world today are not only preventable but often man-made. However, disease outbreaks, conflict-created health emergencies and inefficient healthcare systems continue into 2019. Though there are very real threats to global health, there are also organizations working tirelessly to tackle these global health challenges. The efforts of internationally-focused college clubs, like GlobeMed at the University of Denver and Global Medical Training at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrate that student organizations can improve global health.

GlobeMed at the University of Denver

GlobeMed at the University of Denver started in 2011 and is one of 50 college chapters across the U.S. The broader organization focuses on health disparities across the world by encouraging each chapter to partner with a grassroots health organization to work on local community health projects. GlobeMed at DU partners with Buddhism for Social Development Action (BSDA) in Kampong Cham, Cambodia, an organization started by Buddhist monks with the intention of bettering their community.

Jakob Allen, a Global Health Unit Coordinator for GlobeMed at DU, told The Borgen Project that their co-founders, Victor Roy and Peter Luckow, “realized that the key to sustainable project implementation was to listen and form a relationship with the local community. Too many NGOs today do not assume the population they are working with knows what is best for their community; GlobeMed at DU works to shatter this fallacy by working with our partners to find out what the community believes to be the best solution,” said Allen. “We then work to help make their visions a reality.”

How GlobeMed at DU Helps

Currently, GlobeMed at DU has two active microloan income generation projects, Chicken Raising Project (CRP) and Financing Futures (FF). The money generated by GlobeMed at DU goes towards financing these current projects, which were decided upon by BSDA with input from the community, according to Allen.

The beneficiaries of CRP are families with at least one member living with HIV/AIDS. Allen told The Borgen Project that the goal is to provide each family with a loan to purchase chickens and supplies, “thus enabling sick beneficiaries to cover their own medical transportation costs and receive appropriate treatment.” For the Financing Futures project, the beneficiaries are families with school-aged children. The intention of this project is to provide families with a microloan to start or expand a current business. The reduced cost to run the business encourages families to send the children to school.

Daniel Rinner, a Global Health Unit Coordinator for GlobeMed at DU, told The Borgen Project it is extremely important for GlobeMed at DU that health is not thought of solely in terms of medicine and healthcare institutions. “We also have to consider the social determinants of health: why certain health problems exist in the locations and communities that they do,” said Rinner. “We’ve had chapter meetings on how we can analyze gun violence as a public health issue and how Puerto Rico’s economic and political circumstances coincided with Hurricane Maria to create a public health disaster in our own country, for example,” Rinner added.

The ability to think critically regarding the larger dynamics of globalization and poverty and then utilize this knowledge in local communities is one of the reasons student organizations can improve global health.

Global Medical Training: University of California, Berkeley

Another example of how student organizations can improve global health is Global Medical Training (GMT) at the University of California, Berkeley. GMT is a national organization offering the opportunity to go to Latin American countries and experience “hands-on” clinical work for college students interested in policy or health care careers, according to Angela H. Kwon, President of U.C. Berkeley’s GMT chapter.

Andrew Paul Rosenzweig, Vice President of U.C. Berkeley’s GMT chapter, told The Borgen Project their goal is to reach communities with little access to healthcare. “Many Latin American countries’ health care is focused in populated cities, so we provide more rural communities with these resources,” said Rosenzweig.

In addition to providing healthcare resources to rural Latin American countries, GMT at U.C. Berkeley focuses on implementing public health and sustainability projects. “We recognize the limitations of being in a host country for only a week at a time…[so] the goal of these [public health] projects is prevention rather than treatment,” said Rosenzweig. “Educating individuals on how to live healthier lives can have tremendous impacts on not only their own life but the lives of their family and community.” GMT has worked with rural Latin American communities to teach the significance of healthy eating, reproductive health, dental hygiene and hypertension.

GMT: A Piece of a Larger Movement

When asked whether the “hands-on” approach of GMT at U.C. Berkeley has been successful in creating change in Latin American countries, Kwon told The Borgen Project that this “would be an overstatement. It’s only a very tiny step and the beginning [of] a bigger movement, which is sustainability and health equity.” Though Kwon stated that week-long trips to rural areas do not create immediate or lasting effects, she claimed “it’s a start and any contribution can help. It’s like a ripple effect.”

Kwon added, “Of course, as college students, our knowledge of medicine is limited but…we’re educating future practitioners or professionals about global health and sustainability. Although cliché, we’re making a difference in the patient’s day by providing them with answers, medication and showing them that we care.”

GlobeMed at DU and GMT at U.C. Berkeley’s efforts, with their dedication to education and prevention, understanding of the larger dynamics of poverty, and care for international communities, are a perfect example on how student organizations can improve global health.

– Kara Roberts
Photo: Flickr

poverty and dictatorship
Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Marginalized Women in CambodiaThe opportunities for marginalized women in Cambodia, specifically in the workforce, are limited due to discrimination and traditional patriarchal attitudes that persist in the country. Women are less likely to receive an education than their male counterparts, putting them at an even greater disadvantage in the job market.

Problems Faced by Marginalized Women in Cambodia

So for girls leaving rural villages to try to earn money for themselves and their families, garment work and sex work are the only major employment possibilities. The two trades are often linked. For example, if a girl from the countryside migrates to the city to work in a garment factory, then loses her job because the manufacturer closes up and “runs away” to another location, she may be forced to work as a prostitute in order to survive. Meanwhile, prostitutes who are arrested are often re-trained to work in the garment industry, where they face similar abuses as they did as sex workers, including sexual, physical and verbal abuse.

It is difficult to change the status quo in a country where protest is basically illegal and very dangerous. Dissenters face arrest, torture and murder. Cambodia has been ruled by Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Cambodian People’s Party since 1985. He and the party have been criticized for an increasingly authoritarian rule and silencing any dissenters. Sen just won re-election on July 29 (after banning the opposition party) and will be in power for at least another five years.

United Sisterhood Alliance (Us)

However, this repression has not been totally successful in silencing activists. The United Sisterhood Alliance (Us) is an organization that has been helping marginalized women in Cambodia recognize their rights and makes their voices heard.

Us receives funding from organizations such as Oxfam, American Jewish World Service, and the Global Fund for Women. It consists of an alliance of four linked organizations:

  1. Social Action for Community and Development (SACD) which helps strengthen grassroots and women’s movements.
  2. The Messenger Band (MB) which is an all-girl band consisting of former garment workers who use music to bring awareness to the public.
  3. Women’s Network for Unity (WNU) enables sex workers to have greater agency in their lives.
  4. Worker Information Centers (WIC) are a series of drop-in centers across Phnom Pen that work to empower female garment workers through education, discussion groups and advocacy.

These are explained in more detail below.

Social Action for Community and Development

The SACD  is a resource organization whose end goal is a “critical people’s movement for social and economic justice, to call for an end of all forms of discrimination and to have equal access to fundamental human rights.” They work mostly with women in the sex and garment industries, but also with farmers and people of low-economic status, with a particular focus on improving the health care system for the most impoverished members of society. They host community forums and essay competitions to encourage public participation.

The Messenger Band

The Messenger Band is one of the Us’s most creative projects. The musical group was started by Vun Em, who moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, as a teenager to work in the garment industry. Like other women in that trade, she faced sexual harassment, low wages and long hours. These topics come up in the Messenger Band’s music. Among her well-known songs are The Tears of a Garment Worker and Suffer from Privatization. Em also records female garment workers telling their stories. These stories are then turned into songs, music videos and plays that help to educate the public about what marginalized women in Cambodia are facing.

Performing issue-based songs and plays is dangerous in Hun Sen’s Cambodia, but when confronted about her activism, “I tell police and soldiers I am just a musician,” Vun said. The group has, therefore, managed to avoid persecution.

Women’s Network for Unity

Women’s Network for Unity started in 2002 and consists of a network of 6,400 sex workers of various sexual and gender orientations. WNU fights for access to social services, liberation from discrimination and violence, and the empowerment of sex workers to make their voices heard and advocate for their rights.

In 2008, due to outside foreign pressure, the Cambodian government launched an anti-trafficking campaign with the supposed intention of saving victims of sex trafficking. However, members of the WNU say that the campaign has actually hurt the cause more than helping it.

Police go on raids where they arrest prostitutes and often berate them physically and verbally. They are then “encouraged” (with the only alternative being to sit in jail)  to be re-trained to work in the garment factories. But sex workers who go through the training say they received minimal instruction, had their pay docked during training and have also endured physical and sexual abuse at the factories. Many former sex-workers-turned-seamstresses have told interviewers that they actually preferred life on the streets to the terrible conditions and low pay in garment factories.

Worker Information Centers

WIC works primarily with young women in the Cambodian garment industry. While women working in the garment industry contribute substantially to the Cambodian economy, they have little voice or self-representation.  WIC wants to educate these young women about their rights and opportunities.

One of WIC’s most effective strategies are the drop-in centers operating in worker neighborhoods on the outskirts of Phnom Penh near garment factories. These drop-in centers provide legal assistance and train women to understand their legal rights both under Cambodian law and the regulations of the International Labor Organization.

Women are counseled in cases of domestic violence and offered access to peer networks. They join regular discussion groups, cooking classes and workshops to learn how to prevent conceiving children and seek help in cases of domestic violence and what kinds of herbs to use to treat illnesses that garment workers are prone to such as urinary tract infections, yeast infections and repetitive stress injuries.

WIC also promotes women’s leadership in garment unions. Their overall goal is to create an environment of greater gender equality in the labor movement and the Cambodian government.

Conclusion

These four social groups that make up the United Sisterhood Alliance are changing lives and creating community among the marginalized women in Cambodia. 

– Evann Orleck-Jetter
Photo: Flickr

Cambodia hair
According to the World Bank, although the poverty rate in Cambodia dropped from 47.8 percent in 2007 to 13.5 percent in 2014, 4.5 million people are dangerously close to falling back into poverty. Luckily, Hair Aid, an Australian humanitarian group, is working to help decrease and end poverty in Cambodia.

Hair Aid sends teams of volunteer hairdressers to places like Cambodia in order to teach many of people living in poverty how to cut hair, giving them an opportunity to learn a skill and reduce poverty in that area. Not only does Hair Aid recruit volunteer hairdressers and send them to locations all over the world but they have also been recruiting volunteer hairdressers to work with other local community organizations that help those in need.

Hair Aid’s Currently Changing Cambodia with Hair Cuts

In August 2018, Hair Aid partnered with Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) to teach a course in Steung Meanchey for five days. Hair Aid volunteers describe one function of this humanitarian group as a way to empower the Cambodian people, teaching them skills as a way to start micro businesses in order to support themselves and feed their families. It’s a way to end poverty in Cambodia by providing opportunities to help fight against this epidemic.

Hair Aid also provided essential tools for a popular CCF hairdresser, Granny Thim. This 73-year-old hairdresser used only a pair of kitchen scissors to cut hair within the community. Impressed by Thim, Hair Aid provided the correct and needed tools for her so she can continue her passion, work and skill for cutting hair.

A Hair Aid hairdresser from Brisbane, Bronwyn Ball, also volunteered in Cambodia to help fight against poverty, after seeing the impact hairdressing can have in creating new opportunities for many women and children who are in the sex trade industry.

According to the Australian Broadcast Corporation or ABC News, Ball states that it’s not just about teaching them how to cut hair for the purpose of creating a sustainable income, but it also “gives them hope.” Hair Aid not only gives these women and young girls a certificate and graduation ceremony but they also give them hope for the future.

She also praised Australian celebrity and hair salon owner Tabatha Coffey, star of her own American TV series called Tabatha Takes Over. Coffey has joined and supported Hair Aid, and since Coffey’s series is about helping reinvent failing hair salon businesses, she was able to put to use other skills than just hair cutting tips. She was able to provide business advice for the trainees, helping rid poverty in Cambodia by teaching the Cambodian people a trade and a way to sustain it.

Other Organizations Continue to Help Fight Poverty in Cambodia

While CCF and Hair Aid continue to offer support and training to the Cambodian people, other organizations are doing the same. Helping Hands, for example, aims to provide training opportunities for the people in the country,  building pride and dignity for many families and communities to end poverty in Cambodia.

Helping Hands works with village chiefs, community elders, parents and teachers with the purpose of changing priorities in the Cambodian people. This includes operating schools, providing breakfast, running agriculture training and educational programs and teaching mothers and caretakers about nutrition as well as household hygiene issues.

The Group for Research and Technology Exchanges (GRET) works to provide access to services and water systems, including access to piped water and sanitation, by creating programs to help improve conditions in the area. They also increase small-scale farmers’ income and protect the environment as well as indigenous communities, not only helping to find solutions to land conflicts but also improve crop yield and give access to agricultural water.

Hairdressing is an opportunity for the people of Cambodia to not only feed their families and themselves but also help end poverty in Cambodia. Hair Aid, CCF and other organizations are continuing to support and assist the Cambodian people, hoping to end the poverty epidemic and to improve conditions throughout the country.

– Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Cambodia
Cambodia has made phenomenal progress against poverty in the past few decades. The country surpassed the Millennium Development Goals and expanded their road system, irrigation and agriculture market. The following are the top 10 facts about poverty in Cambodia.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Cambodia

  1. Around 32 percent of children under 5 in Cambodia are stunted. Despite economic growth, Cambodia still struggles with healthcare and education. Decreasing nutritional deficiency in children is essential to mitigating child stunting.
  2. 12.3 million people, or around 70 percent of the population in Cambodia, do not have access to a piped water supply. Access to clean drinking water is crucial to alleviate disease in impoverished communities. Limiting the spread of disease is an important aspect of decreasing poverty in Cambodia.
  3. As of 2015, the life expectancy rate in Cambodia was reported at 68.4 years. This rate is significantly influenced by poverty. Lack of sanitation, education and healthcare are all symptoms of poverty that contribute to limited life expectancy.
  4. Approximately 90 percent of Cambodia’s impoverished population lives in rural areas. Much of them depend upon agriculture for their means of survival. This is good while crop prices are doing well, but these communities are also vulnerable to changes in weather and fluctuating crop yields.
  5. Two-thirds of the households in Cambodia experience seasonal food shortages every year. This is one example of a consequence of living in a rural area that depends on living off the land. Food supply can change with the seasons, leaving it as an unreliable source of sustenance.
  6. A history of political instability contributes to poverty in Cambodia. In the 1970’s, a Marxist leader named Pol Pot began the Khmer Rouge regime that ultimately led to the death of 2 million people in Cambodia. Pol Pot wanted Cambodia to be an agrarian country that did not depend on anything modern. As a result, Cambodia was surpassed by other countries in medical and technological advancements.
  7. There is limited access to quality healthcare, especially in rural areas. Cambodia is a mountainous region, and people living in rural communities are often isolated and have to travel a long way to get to a clinic. While the geography cannot be changed, expanding and opening more clinics would help to reach more people. Also, eliminating fees for services and supplies would help those who are not fortunate enough to afford them on their own, especially considering that healthcare in Cambodia is supposed to be free.
  8. The poverty rate has decreased from 47.8 percent in 2007 to 13.5 percent in 2014. This massive decrease was largely driven by growth in Cambodia’s rice market. Rising prices for rice and a better transportation system for the product has created a more prosperous economy for rural dwellers.
  9. Habitat for Humanity is working to rebuild slums in urban Cambodia. HFH is focusing on building durable homes with access to water and sanitation to replace the fragile shacks in which many impoverished Cambodians are living. They are also training families in HIV/AIDS prevention and financial literacy.
  10. The maternal mortality rate has decreased considerably in recent decades. In 2005, the ratio per 1,000 births was 472. In 2014, it had decreased to 170. Additionally, the under-five mortality rate declined from 83 per 1,000 in 2005 to 35 in 2014.

Cambodia has made great strides since the start of the century in working to alleviate poverty and recover from the Khmer Rouge regime. Some of these top 10 facts about poverty in Cambodia still paint a more negative picture, but others provide hope for the future. If the good fortune that has befallen the agriculture industry continues and more awareness can be raised on the conditions that need improvement in Cambodia, one can expect to continue to see growth in the coming years.

– Amelia Merchant

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in Cambodia
Infrastructure relies on quality, sustainability and cost to determine project investment and execution. Infrastructure in Cambodia, a nation geographically located in Southeast Asia, has drastically advanced over the last few decades, but its overall success and development still lag behind its neighbors. Not without reason, Cambodia infrastructure falls below standard as a result of its nasty civil war, consequently coinciding with the conflict in Vietnam.

A Civil War Disruption

In the 1960s and 1970s, Cambodia was rife with disturbance and disorder. Not only had civil war erupted, but the nation also lurched into the conflict in Vietnam. A small country, the wrath of the communist organization Khmer Rouge effortlessly spread like wildfire. Additionally, civil war wreaked havoc at all ends of Cambodia.

Neighbors to the Vietnam War, Cambodia experienced upwards of 700,000 Cambodian deaths in the American effort to protect themselves from Vietnam.

By 1975, Khmer Rouge took reign in Cambodia, which was headed by a communist by the name of Pol Pot. Believing intellectuals would threaten the communist nation he envisioned, all hospitals, colleges and factories were shut down, and all lawyers, doctors and teachers were either killed or forcibly evacuated from their country.

The freedoms and rights of remaining laborers were rendered nonexistent for the mere fact that the individual intellectual’s aptitude to question authority and create rebellion could pose threat. A paranoid Pol Pot used genocide and exodus to abolish any and all uncertainty.

Existing Infrastructure in Cambodia

There is a limited train network in modern day Cambodia. Railways connecting the rural to the urban, as well as Cambodia to its neighbors, are absent. The country boasts 22,227 miles of highways, of which only 11.6 percent are paved. Moreover, much of the population, especially in rural areas, have no access to electricity, and Internet access in Cambodia is extremely expensive relative to local income levels.

On a brighter note, the network of roads in Cambodia is improving as the country is in the midst of hyper-focusing on road construction. The goal remains to connect the outside with the in, the rural with the urban.

Currently, stretches of road outside the capital city of Phnom Penh are being financed by both the national government and foreign aid. Yet, the quality and sustainability of projects get called into question when external aid is involved. For instance, maintenance of such infrastructure is challenging with limited resources, ultimately leading to deterioration after just a couple of years.

Japan and China Chime In

In efforts to uplift Asian neighbors, Japan and China seem to be some of Cambodia’s largest and most involved foreign aid donors and contributors. Leaders amongst these nations seemingly agree on an advanced push for “quality infrastructure” investment in Asia.

Recently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a $110 billion injection into Asian infrastructure funding over five years. However, according to VOA News, “in order for Cambodia to retain its growth momentum, which over the past decade has seen the economy grow at an average of 7 percent annually, infrastructure investment will need to be somewhere between $12 billion and $16 billion between 2013 and 2022.”

Even if infrastructure development simply begins at road construction, representatives at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Cambodia state that such an improvement will link Cambodia to its neighboring countries, ultimately advancing trade and boosting foreign investment.

In terms of China, they provide an even more immediate fix for infrastructure than can Japan, but the quality is often called into question.

According to VOA News, director of the Center for Policy Studies in Cambodia, Chan Sophal, states that some donors “require a long procedure before we can get a loan and develop the infrastructure, so maybe there is a time/cost [decision] in there. But for other donors, like China, we get the funds quickly and can do it quickly, but there could be an issue with cost and quality.”

Australia, too?

Yes, Australia’s investments in infrastructure in Cambodia are committed to constructing, improving and maintaining rural roads as well as infrastructure damaged in recent natural disasters.

Australia has set precedent to infrastructure projects. Its vision for 2015-2020 includes $45.4 million and collaboration with companies to help connect households and families to resources, services, amenities and utilities.

Its vision for 2014-2020 includes $22.6 million and the Rural Roads Improvement Project Phase II. Co-financed by the Asian Development Bank, the Cambodian government, Korea, France, the Nordic Development Fund and the Strategic Climate Fund, this lofty project will guarantee rehabilitated roads to be climate-resilient and provide 365-day access to schools, hospitals and markets.

Nationwide Improvements

Not only will improved roads increase commuter mobility, but the enhanced quality is predicted to reduce the crash rate by 20 percent. Moreover, labor for improving such infrastructure in Cambodia promises to allocate at least 20 percent of unskilled jobs to women.

According to The Cambodia Daily, secretary-general for the Council for the Development of Cambodia, Sok Chenda, believes that Cambodia does not simply “want growth around Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville…We need to improve rural infrastructure too to create balanced development.”

Such a perspective is both necessary and promising, and the world waits with bated breath to see how Cambodia continues to improve.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Unsplash

Education in Cambodia
During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, lasting from 1975-1979, education in Cambodia experienced a dramatic setback as schools were destroyed and teachers and educators were executed. In the aftermath of this destructive period, Cambodia attempted to rebuild its education system. But today, only about half of school-age children are enrolled.

Cambodian History

The Khmer Rouge, led by Marxist politician Pol Pot, came into power in 1975, when their army took hold of Cambodia’s capital and overthrew the former government. This time in history became known as “Year Zero,” a term derived from the new calendar set in place during the French Revolution. The regime became known for its repressive actions, paranoid ideology, and most importantly, widespread, systematic cruelty.

With the agenda of pursuing an agrarian ideal, the Khmer Rouge led the Cambodian genocide, expelling foreigners, minorities and anyone who resisted the government. The execution grounds — where over a million victims were killed and buried — were called the “killing fields,” and many who toiled in the farms also died from starvation or being overworked.

Intellectuals were seen as dissidents and often specifically targeted, and schools were frequently closed. Children were viewed as blank slates who could easily be manipulated to adhere to Khmer Rouge ideology. After the Khmer Rouge were driven out of Cambodia, the model of education in Cambodia had to be completely recreated from scratch, and schools very slowly began to reemerge in society.

Non-Profit Organizations in Cambodia

Non-profit organizations have helped to support the growth of Cambodia’s children by offering opportunities for education. The organization Tassel acknowledges that the country is still recovering from the trauma of the Khmer Rouge and faces setbacks such as poverty and the challenge of rebuilding itself socially.

Tassel offers children in rural areas free English language education, giving them the skills to read textbooks and sustain jobs later in life. Tassel operates in accordance with its values of compassion and quality, as well as with its volunteer-based structure. The program strives to lift Cambodia out of a darkened past when teachers were persecuted, in hopes of reconstructing the school system.

Programs such as Aziza’s Place, a non-profit learning and development center, enhance the development of underprivileged children in Phnom Penh. Founded in 2007, the organization holds tutoring sessions to support students who have missed school, helping them to gain footing in public schools. Aziza’s Place also provides English language lessons and computer classes, where children can learn to use Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.

In addition, children have the opportunity to study the arts and participate in sports. Other programs such as Tuk Tuk for Children strive to bring children in rural Cambodia education, sanitation and entertainment. Tuk Tuk recognizes that many youngsters have to work to support their families, a reality that can interfere with their academic and social growth.

The organization hosts Tuk Tuk Theatre, which brings children fun activities and informal education on topics such as geography, yoga and sanitation. The group also created Tuk Tuk Mobile Library, a system that circulates books through six different preschools.

Education in Cambodia

The efforts of non-profits such as Tassel, Aziza’s Place and Tuk Tuk for Children have helped to restore vibrancy to the lives of children and provide them with educational opportunities. Cambodia is a country grappling with a harsh history, brought about by the destructive rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Under this regime, the education system was toppled, intellectuals were executed and schools were wiped out. Since this period, the nation has rebuilt its education system entirely from scratch. Organizations that support education in Cambodia have helped to offer the country a new direction in its children’s growth and, hopefully, a brighter future.

– Shira Laucharoen
Photo: Flickr

Cambodian genocideIn 1975, the Khmer Rouge gained control of the Cambodian government with the intent to transform Cambodia into a communist state. As a result, millions of civilians were evacuated from the cities into labor camps where an estimated 1.7 million died from starvation, torture, abuse and execution.

For four years, the Khmer Rouge under the control of former Prime Minister Pol Pot wreaked havoc in Cambodia, creating one of the most devastating mass killings in global history. While the atrocities today are widely known, there are still many facts about the Cambodian genocide that the general public does not know.

Important Facts About the Cambodian Genocide

  1. Unlike other genocides in which specific ethnic groups are targeted for execution, the Cambodian genocide had no exceptions and would single out doctors, teachers, minorities, people with an education, children and even babies.
  2. Pol Pot wanted the nation to revert to a self-sufficient way of living where money had no influence in society. This led to the forced evacuation of cities into the rural communities for a “fresh start.”
  3. Among the near two million dead were an estimated 100,000 Cham Muslims and 20,000 Vietnamese.
  4. While some facts about the Cambodian genocide gained international recognition, it lacked an international investigation due to the United States’ recent loss in the Vietnam War and the hesitance to become involved in the region again.
  5. In the years following the calamity, Cambodia began opening up to the international community again with survivors sharing their stories and recollections. With horrific facts about the Cambodian genocide coming to light, Hollywood created the movie “The Killing Fields” based off of victims’ firsthand experiences. This film brought worldwide attention to what was, just a few years earlier, internationally neglected.
  6. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, otherwise known as the ECCC, was established in 1997 with the assistance of the United Nations. The purpose of the tribunal was to try the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge for the mass crimes committed during the genocide.
  7. Pol Pot faced a show trial in 1997 where he was sentenced to house arrest. He died just less than a year later, never facing a real trial for his crimes and leaving millions of affected people without the chance to bring him to justice.
  8. Victims were allowed to actively participate in the trial proceedings as complainants and civil parties, giving them the satisfaction of justice being enforced. The amount of victims present during each case varied from 94 to 4,128.
  9. Throughout the trials, three offenders were convicted and four were charged for allegations pertaining to crimes against humanity, homicide, violations of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code, breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and genocide.
  10. The closing statements for the final case lasted nine days in June 2017 and the final judgment is expected to be presented in 2018.

The Cambodian genocide itself may have only lasted four years but the effects from it will continue to last for years, decades and even centuries. The Cambodian people will continue to rebuild their nation and their own lives, working toward a better, more peaceful future.

– Samantha Harward
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Cambodia
The Cambodian government sees education as a key to achieving its long-term vision for the country. It is focused on political stability, long-term economic growth, sustainable development, improved living standards and reduced poverty. It has identified girls’ education in Cambodia in particular as an important step in reaching these goals.

Gender Disparities Still an Obstacle in Cambodia

Although Cambodia has made strides in offering equal access to education for boys and girls, the country still suffers from a substantial gender disparity. Because of this, girls’ education in Cambodia is both lacking and unjust. If a Cambodian girl has aspirations of getting an advanced education or entering the workforce, her dream will more than likely be crushed due to the poverty, corruption, cultural norms and lack of schools in rural areas in Cambodia.

Data collected by various international organizations and the Cambodian Ministry of Education shows that boys and girls in Cambodia start primary education at equal rates. However, reports show that the dropout rate for female students increases with each grade. Although the gender gap is continuing to narrow, the gross enrollment rate decreases for female students in both the lower and upper secondary levels.

What Prevents Cambodian Girls from Attending School?

Girls’ education in Cambodia is compromised because of widespread poverty; Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. According to the Asian Development Bank, 72 percent of the population lives on less than $3 per day. Children living in rural areas are more than likely from poor families; therefore, they will struggle to obtain an education. Poverty is interlinked with the issue of girls’ education in Cambodia, as many poor parents will prioritize their son’s education over their daughter’s.

Cultural norms in Cambodia confine many of these girls to a life full of domestic duties, such as housework, cooking and caring for children. With the corruption and poverty that Cambodia faces today, as well as the gender disparities and lack of schools in rural areas, Cambodian girls still do not have the same opportunities as Cambodian boys.

The Good News Regarding Girls’ Education in Cambodia

Fortunately, there are many organizations who have taken notice of the inequalities in girls’ education in Cambodia and are creating opportunities for these girls. A program called OPTIONS, run by World Education with financial support from UNICEF and the U.S. Department of Labor, provides scholarships that enable girls who are at risk of dropping out to remain in school. In poor areas of Cambodia such as Prey Veng, where many families are forced to migrate due to persistent floods and droughts, the scholarships also help prevent girls from being trafficked or sexually exploited.

To address the needs of undereducated girls, the program offers girls in grades five and six weekly skills classes on a wide range of topics, such as trafficking, reproductive health, sexual abuse and vocational awareness. Girls between the ages of eight and 12 who are out of school can attend courses that aid them in reintegrating in the formal system after one year. For girls over the age of 12, the offerings include basic and functional literacy courses and apprenticeships with local employers.

World Bank Project Ensures Rural Girls Can Access Schools

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved $100 million in financing for two Cambodian projects in April 2017. Both projects will contribute to improving the quality of secondary schools and making rural roads better connected and resistant to severe weather impacts.

The first project, the Secondary Education Improvement Project, is a five-year project for lower secondary schools. The project has many different goals, including strengthening school management, improving the qualifications of teachers and school directors, and providing better school facilities by renovating 100 schools and building 30 new ones. This alone is expected to impact more than 16,000 students, 2,200 teachers, 310 school directors and deputy directors and 1,500 school staff members.

The second project, the Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Management Project, will refine and improve the connectivity of rural communities, which are isolated from mainstream development due to poor road conditions. This project will rehabilitate about 150 miles of rural roads in six provinces and will benefit about 3.5 million residents.

“Improving rural roads is central to poverty reduction in Cambodia, since 79 percent of the population and 91 percent of the poor live in rural areas,” said Inguna Dobraja, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Cambodia. “Better and weather resilient roads will help students go to school, families visit health centers and farmers from across Cambodia bring their products to markets.”

Although it is an unfortunate reality that many hopes for girls’ education in Cambodia are destroyed and unfulfilled due to cultural norms, poverty and gender disparities, the gap between boys and girls in education is continuing to narrow, and organizations such as UNICEF and the World Bank are working to bring about a future where more Cambodian girls will receive a quality education.

– Angelina Gillispie
Photo: Flickr

Facts Pertaining to Poverty in CambodiaMany individuals are unaware of the circumstances in third world countries, Cambodia in particular. The more time people take to familiarize themselves with the culture and community, the more incentive they have to engage in a culturally competent method of understanding the world around them and facts pertaining to poverty in Cambodia.

Living in Rural Areas

Ninety percent of Cambodia’s 4.8 million poor people live in rural areas. Most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but 12 percent of them are landless.”

With the majority of the population relying on cultivation in the area, many people need extra assistance getting the necessary resources for their families. There are a plethora of aspects that need to be taken into consideration when looking for land including landmines, nearest roads and types of facilities in the area.

Exploiting Natural Resources

“Between 2000 and 2012, [Cambodia] lost more than 7 percent of its forest cover, the fifth fastest rate in the world.”

Deforestation and illegal farming practices are part of the reason why the forest cover has been depleting and is one of the facts pertaining to poverty in Cambodia. Increased protection and conservation efforts would lessen deforestation. It would also provide more natural resources to the public, contributing to a wide array of support for poverty-stricken individuals.

Surviving on Minimal Income

“Average annual income is $2.60 per day, with a third of the population living on less than $1 per day. It is one of the poorest countries in the world.”

There are many factors that play a role in Cambodia being one of the poorest countries in the world. Cambodia does not have a stable economy and the majority of people who do work, are paid under the table. This could mean they are paid illegally or through a third party that supplies them with cash for hard labor.

Decreasing Maternal Mortality

“The maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 live births decreased from 472 in 2005 to 170 in 2014.”

The death of a pregnant woman can be the result of many aspects during childbirth. Cambodia’s dramatic decline in its maternal mortality rate proves that the country is on the right track toward becoming more sanitary. This also shows Cambodia is implementing better health systems to possibly eradicate the issue of mothers dying while giving birth.

Lacking in Education

“More than 50 percent of the population is 25 years old or younger. Most of them don’t receive education higher than the secondary level. This results in a lack of experienced workers and talent who can help with the country’s development.”

Cambodia has recently seen an increase in tourism and the money the government receives from external activities needs to be used to better the education system. A higher quality school system would not only help the development of the country prosper, but also advance job positions for certain individuals. A lack of education is one of the facts about poverty pertaining to Cambodia that could be improved and help make money more accessible, leading to higher incomes throughout the country.

– Matthew McGee

Photo: Flickr