Every year, 70% of Sala Baï students are girls because they are more vulnerable and it is so much harder for them to access stable employment. Agir pour le Cambodge’s strategy is to fight against human trafficking and help women to become independent by providing them with one year training in the catering and hospitality professions.
Nearly 1,200 girls from poor families have already been trained at Sala Baï. They are living proof of the positive impact of education on their lives and on the lives of their family members. Once they join the world of working women, they continue to mobilise for the education of girls in Cambodia. Take Sok Meng for whom Sala Baï was a springboard out of poverty and who continues to raise awareness in her community of the importance of access to education and training for girls, especially in rural areas.
This awareness-raising work is beginning to show results. Sophal, Sala Baï social worker particularly responsible for recruitment, testifies:
“Traditionally, when there was an opportunity for a child to study, parents would prioritise boys and girls stayed in the village. They would help in the home and work in the rice fields. Boys also have the possibility of studying in monasteries and becoming monks.
A girl who left her village and moved to a big town was frowned upon. Now, Cambodian law promotes equality and NGOs that have started to work in Cambodia have raised families’ awareness of gender issues and tourism provides opportunities for women in the service sector. Parents have a better understanding of such opportunities for their daughters that will enable them to earn a living with dignity and also support their families in a job that has career prospects. Times are changing and women are forging ahead!”
Despite these encouraging progresses, a 2018 report from Save the Children highlighted the increase in the number of early pregnancies. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of girls aged 15 to 19 who fell pregnant in Cambodia rose by 50%, as a result of lack of access to education. Mobilisation and actions in favour of girls must be continued.
Education and training are essential if girls are to access stable, quality employment. The tourism sector is an ideal sector as employment opportunities in this sector are open to both boys and girls. Receiving free training in catering and hospitality will enable them to access employment in a growing economic sector and thus transform their lives and those of their families.