CAMBODIA: Girls Discarded Like Soiled Linen

Dear Michelle Bachelet and members of the UN Women Executive Board,

I am honored and privileged to present the issues facing my country. I am also grateful and excited for your new post as the Executive Director of UN Women. I am sure you will give hope to all women around the world.

There is a proverb in Cambodia that asserts that men are like gold, women like a fresh white piece of linen. Even if gold is put in the fire, it remains unharmed. A white piece of linen, as soon as it has one blemish, is no longer of any use to anyone. The idea that girls and women are disposable commodities still prevails in Cambodian society, aggravated by the disproportionate value placed on virginity. Even if a girl is drugged and raped, her value as a desirable wife becomes nil. The victim is held responsible and she is burdened with the shame of having brought dishonor to the family.

As a student and a volunteer with Soroptimist International (an NGO in Phnom Penh), I am led by my heart to empower women and girls. I am concerned with rampant sex trafficking in Cambodia and the underlying issues of poverty and lack of education.

Prostitution often takes a covert form—it takes place in brothels in Cambodia and neighboring Thailand, and also in massage parlors, karaoke bars, and more hidden outlets. Women and girls migrating from rural to urban areas and across the border to Thailand are especially vulnerable to the violation of their rights as they fall prey to the growing sex industry.

Inadequate education puts many girls and young women in danger of being sold or duped into the sex industry. Or they are forced to make this choice when no alternatives are available. Poverty, illiteracy, family problems, and gender discrimination create a fertile breeding ground for trafficking, exploitation, rape, and abuse.

Education in Cambodia is still limited for those who live in rural areas and in poorer parts of the cities. Most poor families are uneducated, or only finish primary school. We need to encourage and empower all girls to get an education so they can avoid being trafficked into the sex industry.

I would love to ask help from UN Women to recover the lives of poor people in Cambodia. Help us provide a better education system—especially for those who live in rural areas. Help us educate women and men to understand gender inequality so that we can end gender discrimination and give value to each person’s life.

Kind Regards,

Sarvina Kang Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Comment on this Editorial






Nilima from Nepal

Hi Nilima,

Thanks so much my dearest friend! I know you always support and encourage me - I am happy to be your friend.

Love, Sarvina

Regards, Sarvina from Cambodia VOF 2011 Correspondent

Dear Sarvina,

Liked your post and the cause.

I think, girls being treated as a lesser human being is global issue, more so may be in the Asian and African countries where resources and wealth are confined to the limited group of so called "elite" people. Your voice coming from Cambodia resonates the sounds from this region, Nepal is no better. Illeteracy, sex-trafficking among others are persisting problems here too germinating from absolute poverty. There are lots of I/NGOs working for the upliftment of women and other minority groups but there still needs a lot to be, a long miles to go.

I hope UN Women in Nepal would be able address these issues, take them on through to the grassroot levels and be able to impact postively on the lives of those that really need it.

Jebli Nepal

Dear Jebli,

Thanks so much for taking time to read my article and also writing me such an inspiring comment! Of course many I/NGOs are working to solve this issue but it is seem needed to take a long miles to go more. In Nepal and Cambodia, we have many things in common that still need to be addressed and hopefully when our countries can access to education both girls and boys, rich and poor and everyone gives each others value then the society will be full of peace and has no more discrimination.

Love, Sarvina

Regards, Sarvina from Cambodia VOF 2011 Correspondent

Excellent write up Sarvina! In addition to the stigma you spoke of in your article I have come to understand the injustice that many Khmer women face when their marriage does not continue smoothly. From what I gather, if a marriage goes sour it matters not who is at fault, the woman may/shall be looked down upon for her somehow failing to be a good or perfect wife regardless if there was any truth to that. This, of course, is ludicrous to someone looking in from the outside and even challenging to comprehend.

Fortunately, there are more and more educated women like Sarvina, who, over time will be able to change the antiquated thought processes of the society. I am fostering the spirit of a brilliant 10 year old in the hopes that she will never forget her birthplace and will be able to contribute to the greater good for all in Cambodia. In fact, we are going to PP/BB for her first visit back home this next week to see the rest of her family.

be well

Hi Bongmao,

Thanks so much for your nice words! Of course most their marriages doesn't continue smoothly coz of lacking of module understanding, education and live in poverty so all the causes can make their marriages easy to break or violence in family. It is a reason I wish everyone girls or boys, rich or poor in my country can access to education and learn about person's value. We should learn to give a person value even they are disability. That's much I want!

Glad to hear you and her is coming here! Hope you both enjoy the days in Cambodia.

Love, Sarvina

Regards, Sarvina from Cambodia VOF 2011 Correspondent

Sarvina, I have great hope in the futures of the young girls of Cambodia because of women such as yourself. Your strong sense of justice and your love for your fellow Khmer is inspiring. Prior to the Khmer Rouge genocide, women in Cambodia enjoyed a strong social position and in time, I hope that they will again hold an influential position within their families and communities.

Thank you for all you do to increase awareness of the many challenges that face your Khmer sisters. With love, Janice

Hi Janice,

How nice to get your comment! I do miss you and hope you are fine there. Thanks so much for your nice words.

Love, Sarvina

Regards, Sarvina from Cambodia VOF 2011 Correspondent