Financial debt plagues a huge percentage of the impoverished in Cambodia. This isn’t like the debt you and I know in the US. There, loan sharks prey on families facing desperate situations, imposing staggering interest that makes repayment almost impossible. In a country where many families earn less than $2 a day, any crisis–a health problem, a natural disaster, a disruption in income–can put them at risk for starvation. So they take out loans for small amounts that snowball into larger amounts over time, and often find themselves desperate once again, this time for a different reason. This is one of the biggest reasons that children are forced into the sex industry.
Not all parents in this situation sell their daughters to traffickers, but some do. This article on CNN explores the issue in depth, and sheds some light on the mentality of the mothers who make these desperate decisions.
Debt is a heavy burden, and follows many of the girls in CGI’s programs. Many of them have shared stories of accrued family debt that they want to help alleviate, even at very young ages. Fighting trafficking is certainly a priority of CGI, but fighting poverty is our main focus. It is the underlying factor–the common thread–in so many trafficking narratives. Our programs in Cambodia emphasize vocational training in the hopes of freeing these girls from poverty, giving them the ability to make decisions apart from the influence of desperation.
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