National Changes to Help Trafficking Survivors

Others, Exploitation , Trafficking

Contributed by: Ratanak International



Often we are motivated by those emotional encounters with shattered lives. The ones at the Ratanak Centre where we see terror in the eyes of freshly arrived trafficking survivors fade into calm, as they dare to hope they are finally safe, finally with those who will love and protect them. These are powerful encounters indeed and your support makes them possible.

Such dramatic recovery of traumatized lives cannot happen without an administrative and legal framework.

It wasn’t too long ago that Cambodia was torn apart by bombings during the Vietnam war, followed by the horrors of genocide and a long and brutal civil war. These tragedies devastated Cambodians, and dismantled public institutions, including government and social protection systems.

Decades later, Cambodia is in the process of recovering from the trauma and shock of these atrocities. The government is working hard to rebuild and support its people. We are encouraged to see many positive developments, but it is a long, challenging road towards building social safety nets and being able to protect its citizens.

It is an honour that through over 30 years of steadfast work, Ratanak is positioned to offer support to the government and to help craft meaningful policies that prioritize trafficking survivors and improve support systems, creating long-term change and lasting impact.

This foundational work enables Ratanak to partner directly with the Cambodian government to create country-wide policies and train staff at both the provincial and national levels. Together, we work to improve the quality of services for survivors, systems of survivor-identification, data management and coordination within the government. Not only do these policies place the dignity and humanity of trafficking survivors first, these changes will strengthen the national response to human trafficking and expand the services available to survivors so that they can be protected from re-exploitation, recover and rebuild their lives.

Working on such systems, while vital, appears much less dramatic. However, after 32 years of working with Western and Cambodian government officials, I can tell you these meetings are just as exciting to me. To be successful, these meetings must be based on long-term relationships, trust and mutual respect. They can lead to huge systemic changes that save lives, and they are every bit as personal.

Many of us have experienced uncomfortable highstakes meetings with relative strangers like lawyers, bank managers, school principals, business owners. If only we knew the bank manager, if only the lawyer was a friend, if only we had known the school principal for years, how much easier and productive such meetings would be.

These are exactly the sort of relationships Ratanak’s Cambodian team have built with Cambodian government officials, especially within the Anti-Human Trafficking Department in the Ministry of Social Affairs with which we work most closely.

We are continually amazed by the level of skill and professionalism that our young staff team demonstrate as they build these key relationships. We have come to know these officials and have humbly offered them our respect, skills, and honesty.

Over time they have grown to trust Ratanak and even seek our input and partnership, developing policies and procedures that protect thousands of lives.

What a rare privilege, that God has allowed us to work in such a context of trust for the blessing of all Cambodians. So, these relationships also change lives. They are a blessing and encouragement to me and, I hope, to you.

      Brian McConaghy, Founding Director


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