Cambodia

ActionAid began operating in Cambodia in 1999. An important part of our work involves helping people to discover their rights after years of oppression.

Our approach

We support rural women to establish community savings groups. Members can borrow and repay money, interest free and get help to start small businesses. This helps women afford to send their children to school. Our Safe Cities Programme is targeting the local and national authorities to ensure they improve the safety of women and girls vulnerable to violence in cities.

To help day labourers who cannot earn money for food when the floods arrive, we provide rice loans. And to help farmers boost food production we provide training on crop diversification and new techniques. Farmers who receive training share their knowledge with the rest of the community.

ActionAid runs regular workshops for parents on the importance of children going to school and we work with teachers and parent groups to improve the quality of education. We also identify the children most likely to drop out due to poverty and provide school uniform and bag, notebooks, pens and pencils so they can continue their lessons.

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Why we work in Cambodia

In 1975 the nation was torn apart when the radical communist Khmer Rouge seized power. Up to two million people died, many from exhaustion or starvation, while others were tortured and executed.  Following a Vietnam-led invasion, the Khmer Rouge’s murderous rule ended in 1979.

Cambodia’s rich culture and ancient temples make it a haven for more than a million visitors every year.  However, corruption is still deep-rooted and around one-third of the population lives on less than US$1 a day.

Life for women is extremely hard in Cambodia. Women living in rural areas are very likely to experience domestic violence, sexual assault and land grabbing, and in cities, where criminal activity is everywhere, women are especially vulnerable to sexual violence in public places.

Cambodia has one of the least educated populations in the region - 40% of women are illiterate compared to 22% of men. Many children do not attend school because their parents can’t afford it or because they are needed to work to earn money for the family.

The country is also vulnerable to floods, droughts and insect infestations. These affect crops, destroy homes and force villagers to move to safer ground. As the majority of Cambodians depend upon their crops for food, when disasters hit they struggle to feed their families.

How we’re changing lives for good in Cambodia

Farming techniques to feed the family

Mrs. Lers Houn, 31, struggled to raise her two daughters on her indigenous farming knowledge.  Her vegetable harvests were low and she could not feed her family all year round.

ActionAid and local partners identified the most vulnerable smallholder farmers, especially women, and trained them to modernise their production techniques. Now Mrs. Lers Houn can feed the family without worry and put the money from selling surplus crops towards her children’s education.

She says: “I could harvest 15-20 kg of many types of vegetable per week, up from 10-15 kg per week compared to the past year when I grew without proper techniques. The new farming techniques really work."

Read more about our work on ending hunger

Working together to send children to school

Choun Sokhun is 42-year-old farmer in Cambodia’s Battambang province. She joined an ActionAid training on agriculture as part of project set up to help parents increase their incomes so that they can keep sending their children to school. 

ActionAid has also been working with a local partner in her area to help parents advocate for better quality education. "Our proposed request for state teachers and a new school building was sent through the village authorities,” Choun Sokhun told us.

"Things have been changed in my community since ActionAid has worked in my village," she continued. "Now, my children can go to school and their learning is improved day by day. Moreover, the revolving fund and the agriculture training support me and other women in the village to increase our incomes - particularly, so that we have enough money and food to send our children to school."

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Photos: Charles Fox/ActionAid, Savann Oeurm/ActionAid