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Cambodia

Geography / Culture

The Kingdom of Cambodia is situated on the Indochina peninsular in Southeast Asia. As is typical of its spatial context, the climate of Cambodia is characterised by a distinct monsoonal season and dry season. Low-lying central plains dominate most of the landscape with hills and low mountains scattered throughout and the Mekong River featuring as a major artery from North to South. Thailand lies to the West, Laos to the North, Vietnam to the East and the Gulf of Thailand to the Southwest.

Cambodian culture is a melting pot of the former Angkor Empire, the Khmer monarchy, Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism, French colonialism, modern Western influences and various hill tribe ethnicities. Their mixed history is illuminated in traditional art forms of music, dance and festivals.

Demography

90% of locals consider their ancestry to have stemmed from the ancient Angkor civilisation which dominated much of the region. Its rich culture dates back 2 000 years and comprises the basis of the subsequent Khmer kingdom. Nowadays, the Vietnamese and Chinese also have a substantial presence. The dominant language is Khmer and 97% subscribe to Buddhism.

The age structure of Cambodia is severely skewed toward the young as the Khmer Rouge eradicated much of the elder generation, specifically targeting the educated. When peace was eventually restored a significant population explosion occurred which has led to the bottom-heavy population pyramid of today. More than 50% of Cambodians are younger than 24 years old.

Government & Politics

Cambodia's recent history is tainted with crimes against humanity of the worst kind. Having been crippled by their involvement in the American/ Vietnamese War, the Khmer Rouge regime saw the genocide of an estimated one quarter of the population, before foreign occupation ensued for the subsequent decade. It is with this backdrop that the nation's frail systems of governance must be understood, as significant fault lines remain unaddressed today. Although officially recognised as a multiparty democracy with a constitutional monarchy, the Human Rights Watch is closely monitoring corruption and authoritarianism within the government body.

Economy

Strong growth in recent years has been driven by textiles, construction, agriculture and tourism which has attracted foreign investment and stimulated international trade. Much potential lies in the extractive industry as large oil deposits have been discovered under Cambodia's maritime territory.

Nevertheless, development remains overwhelming as more than 4 million Cambodians live on less than .25 per day. One of the greatest concerns is the pressure for the private sector to absorb the oncoming demographic youth bulge, particularly as many children cannot access education and remain unskilled.

Issues Facing Cambodia Today

  • Education: Immense pressure on the education system is a knock-on effect of the disproportionate age-structure. Not only does Cambodia lack necessary infrastructure to operate schools, but past decades of conflict have also left an enormous deficit of teachers and educated leaders, dragging the country further behind developmental targets. Consequently, many uneducated children and youth turn to illegal activities in the overly active underworld as a means of living.
  • Sexual assault/ trafficking: Commercial sex is booming with many young girls entering the trade out of force or destitution. Trends show that children who were sexually abused in childhood are more likely to engage in prostitution as adults. In a culture which values pre-marital purity, victims are often stigmatised and downcast because of a belief that they are 'tainted'. Healthcare and emotional support is scarce and rising levels of violence against women exceed the capacity of the justice system.
  • Deforestation: Deforestation is occurring in Cambodia at one of the fastest rates in the world. In 40 years forest cover fell from over 70% to just 3.1% (UNDP, 2013) . The future sustainability of reserves is under great threat by illegal loggers, increasing global demand for wood and poor environmental planning.
  • Landmines: Cambodia is laden with countless unexploded landmines which are a legacy of the war-tainted past. Survivors of the detonations almost certainly require amputation and often then turn to begging as a means of survival. Children are often the unsuspecting victims as they play in fields or search for scraps to sell at the market.

 

Sources:

CIA WorldFact Book - https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pp.html

UNDP: http://www.kh.undp.org/content/cambodia/en/home/countryinfo/

The Halo Trust: http://www.halotrust.org/where-we-work/cambodia

Education & Vocational Upskilling
  • Category: Child protection, Education, Life / Vocational Skilling, Micro-enterprise
  • Grant: $10,001 to $25,000
  • Target Group: Any
  • Gender: Any
  • Age: Any
  • Country: Cambodia

Education & Vocational Upskilling

In some Cambodian communities, the importance of education is not fully realised.  Children follow their parents into the status quos of rice farming, building or begging that have been the only vocational options for generations gone by.

Exploitation Recovery and Reintegration
  • Category: Anti-trafficking, Child protection
  • Grant: $75,001 - $150,000
  • Target Group: Displaced people, Marginalised people
  • Gender: Any
  • Age: Any
  • Country: Cambodia

Exploitation Recovery and Reintegration

Cambodia is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking.  Every year, thousands of men, women and children are sold by organized crime syndicates in Karaoke bars, massage parlours, street vendors, brick factories and brothels.

Female Empowerment and Reintegration – Restoration Following Commercial Sexual Exploitation
  • Category: Female empowerment
  • Grant: $25,001 to 75,000
  • Target Group: Any
  • Gender: Female
  • Age: Any
  • Country: Cambodia

Female Empowerment and Reintegration – Restoration Following Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Due to a history of violence and a compromised capacity for law and order, issues of commercial sexual exploitation, rape and gender inequality run rampant in Cambodia.  ‘Bauk’ (premeditated gang rape) is on the rise and recent studies show that 1 in 5 Cambodian men aged 18-49 have admitted to sexual abuse.

Female Enterprise Incubator
  • Category: Social Enterprise
  • Grant: $75,001 - $150,000
  • Target Group: Any
  • Gender: Female
  • Age: Any
  • Country: Cambodia

Female Enterprise Incubator

Gender stereotypes are systemic within the Cambodian job market.  Female unemployment in the formal sector is widespread as restrictive social norms dictate unequal opportunity.  Men are encouraged to undertake vocational training programs in trades such as mechanics, electronics and IT, whilst women are commonly limited to sewing, cooking and hospitality.

Orthotic Services
  • Category: Disability Inclusive, Health
  • Grant: < $10,000
  • Target Group: People with Disabilities
  • Gender: Female
  • Age: Any
  • Country: Cambodia

Orthotic Services

Cambodia’s wartime callouses have begun to heal over however much work remains to be done in building the capacity of orthotic services.  Whilst some government support has been reserved to fund prosthetics for victims of land mines, much less is on offer to those with debilitating diseases such as club foot, polio and cerebral palsy.