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Vision of

By: Sophoan Kwok

Vision of Change
Exploring into poverty and child labor in Cambodia
Associated with

Friends International

By: Sophoan Kwok


Dedicated to Friends-International for

doing their best in aiding and providing for
our society as well as being a role model in
paving a path for a better future.



Kingdom of Wonder














lost opportunities

Poverty places families behind

invisible bars.


Poverty hinders the development

for a successful future


Poverty is an enemy to human liberty


What is the reality of poverty

and child labor in Cambodia?


Home to approximately 15 million people, Cambodia is a country located in Southeast Asia known for its complex rich history and culture. Today, decades of war and internal conflict has scarred both the community and the environment, hindering
the opportunities for development. Statistics say that 4.8 million people are currently living in poverty, 90% of these individuals are in rural areas with 12% being landless. (Rural Poverty in Cambodia). Agriculture is an important aspect that drives Cambodia's economy however productivity is low as the country has minimum support from using traditional methods. of the
nation's rural households, which sustain up to 1.6 million people, face food shortages each season and year. Having access
to rice takes up to 30% of a rural families expenditures. (Rural Poverty in Cambodia) Due to the unstable income, many engage in temporary and poorly paid jobs. Some of the issues Cambodia has struggled to overcome are the millions of hidden
and activated land mines scattered across the rural undergrounds.


Poverty in Cambodia
The majority of the nation is negatively affected by poverty
however farmers, women, tribal people, members of poor
fishing communities, landless people, rural youth, mine victims and are some of the most disadvantaged when it
comes to our being individual stable. Although new developments have been made, the past has left women having limited equal access of rights which include the right to an education, paid employment, health services and land ownership.

facilities which places them in a disadvantaged situation.

Some are lucky enough to travel more than 5 km when reaching a health clinic while others live more than 5 km from the
nearest road. (Rural Poverty in Cambodia)
Poverty in Cambodia and many other developing countries
is caused by the pressure of a fast growing population.
There is a lack of education and skills training in the community and many have inadequate employment choices with
low capabilities. This causes them to feel insecure, excluded
and vulnerable in a demanding community. Lack of access to
natural resources is scarce, health services are poor, there is
a limited amount of education, poor infrastructure and is
lead by low productivity are factors that all amplify the issue
of poverty. Families are left desperately to support themselves as overcoming diseases with high health expenditures
and the cycle of poverty continues to keep them struggling

Poverty strikes Cambodia's upland areas the most as many

live in districts bordering Thailand and the Lao People's
Democratic Republic in the north and north east, as well as
Vietnam in the east. However the issue is less severe within
districts that neighbor the Tonle Sap lake and the Mekong
river basin located in the south. Families who are gravely affected by poverty are isolated from others as they tend to
live in remote villages that are far from social services and

Development in Cambodia
According to World Food Programme, Cambodia has notably made a significant amount of progress in reducing national poverty by achieving an exceptional amount of economic growth since the mid 1990s. On the UNDP 2013 Human Development
Index, Cambodia is said to be ranked 138 out of 185 countries, proving that this is a positive start. The World Bank has stated
that Cambodia's poverty rates have decreased from 53.2% in 2004 to 20.5% in 2011. Although the nation's population may
be somewhat improving, many are still at a high risk of falling back into poverty - especially when facing with the slightest
economical/financial downfalls. Losing $0.30 a day can lead to an impact of a 40% increase in the nation's poverty rate as
Cambodia's abundant amounts of exported paddy rice provide little support for proper access to household materials, nutritious and sanitary foods.Research from the Cambodia Socioeconomic Survey in 2007 has shown that 18% of the nation is living under the food poverty line where 40% of children under aged five, experience stunted growth due to chronic malnourishment whereas over 28% are underweight whereas the other 10.9% are acutely malnourished.


Dening Child Labor

"Child labor is defined as as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development." - International Labor Organization

This term varies depending on the child's age, the type and
hours of work carried out, the conditions of the work and the
objectives behind the labor. This includes work that dangerously affects and harms children both mentally, physically or
socially through unethical means. It is also work that hinders
and restricts their schooling by depriving their access and opportunities of attending school. Additionally, it includes accommodating them to withdraw from attending school prematurely and requiring them to integrate their studies at
school with unbearable long and heavy hours of work. Extreme cases of child labor is often seen at a very early age
and includes being oppressed into slavery, separated from
their families, exposed to hazardous substances and vulnerable to illnesses which leave them defenseless on the streets
of large cities.

agriculture sector is composed of activities regarding land/

farm management, hunting forestry and fishing, whereas the
industry sector features mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction and public utilities - electricity, gas and water. The service sector includes wholesale and retail trade,
working in restaurants and hotels, transporting and storing
as well as communications related to finance, insurance, real
estate, business services and other social personal services.
An estimated 115 million children, aged 5-17 are categorized under the worst forms of child labor and are working in
hazardous dangerous conditions within the factors of the agricultural, industrial and service sectors. (What is Child Labor)
Usually these child laborers start carrying out these harmful
and risky works at a young age. The effects of child labor on
a child can be devastating as it leaves long term consequences behind due to the lack of safety and health protection.

Child labor can be found in many forms which have been divided into the agricultural, industrial and service sectors. The


The Issue of Child Labor

According to Wiener, Gary an estimated 250 million children from ages 5-14 are still laboring in developed and third world nations.
The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 32 says "State Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's
education or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development." Yet in reality this
is not the case as approximately 127.3 million children between ages 5-14 are child laborers found in only the Asia - Pacific region.
Child laborers are affected physically and mentally which result in permanent disabilities, complications of health problems as
well as psychological, behavioral, emotional Worldwide, the ILO estimates that some 22,000 children are killed at work every
According to Adam, James, Interviewees interviewed as part of Cambodia Child Labour Survey (CCLS) in 2001 reported considering some aspects of their child(ren)s work risky or dangerous in almost two out of three cases (61%). Yet, child workers
tend to be disregarded as their access to safety protection in the industry are limited compared to their adult counterparts.


Child Labor in Cambodia

Cambodia is a driving source of child labor. Children are often extensively used as tools for the country's economic activity where an estimated 52 percent of 7-14 year-olds, over
1.4 million children, were economically active in 2001.
(Adam, James) Comparing this percentage with other relative countries with similar levels of income, this statistic noticeably stands out and does raise a concern for the country.
Although there is evidence that child involvement in economic activities have decreased and school enrollment has
increased, the issue of child labor still exists in a developing
country like Cambodia.

and attendance declines as children begin working, leaving

their education behind. Children who mostly involve in economical activities are often found in farms and already work
for their families to earn enough income.
75% of every four economically active children are in the agriculture sector, against only 15% in commerce, 5% percent
in manufacturing and 2% in services.
About 90% of economically active children work for their
families as unpaid labour.

16 percent of children are already economically active at age

six years, and over half of all children are economically active
by the age of 10 years. By the age of 15, the share of children working in economic activity surpasses that of children
attending school. There is 91% of 11 year olds within the enrollment of school however after this age, enrollment

On average, children earn about US$1 per day, accounting

for 28 % of the total household labour income. Usually economically active children are placed within rigorous work
hours with children aged 7-14 perform, an average of almost
22 hours of these labored activities each week whereas children who combine both economic work with schooling perform and average of 20 hours a week.


Insight on Child Workers

In 2004, Unicef conducted an extensive assessment of child
workers in the construction - brick industry within these two
provinces, Kampong Cham and Siem Reap. In this assessment, there were a total sample of 2,652 children in which
45 percent were aged 10-15 years and 49 percent was aged
15-17 years whereas an insignificant number of 160 children
were aged less than 10 years. Child brick workers have directly stated that their major activities included 30% gathering soil, 25% drying bricks under the sun, 14% transferring
dried bricks to a kiln (brick oven/furnace) and 11% filling in
brick moulds. (Adam, James)

Within the sample, 42% of child workers were unable to attend school
The average salary of a child brick worker is low and does little to support their families necessities. 49% earn a monthly
salary of 10,000 riels to 100,000 riels, which is approximately
equivalent to $2.50 - $25 in US dollars. (Adam, James) 65%
of employers and industry owners stated that the main advantage of having child workers were their suitability, obedient behavior and that less wages can be paid.

Furthermore, 75% of child workers have not taken a single

day off during the week, more than 60% have fallen ill/felt
unwell during their work, 48% and over have indicated that
they disliked their work as they are tired from constantly being pushed to the limit of heavy work.


include the production of salt, construction (operating transportation equipment), production of textiles (bleaching, dyeing, processing with chemicals), production of alcoholic beverages, slaughterhouses for production of meat and the
processing of wood and metal products. The main most evident agricultural labor activities include fishing (deep sea
and night fishing); production of tobacco, cassava, rubber,
rice and sugarcane as well as logging for the production of
timber. In the service labor sector, activities include domestic
service, security guards, bartenders, waiters, work on the
streets (begging, vending, shoe polishing, scavenging) and
garbage pickers in which many of these activities are invisible to the community as it can be seen as part of Phnom
Penh's everyday happenings.

Sectors of
Child Labor
According to the Cambodian Labor Law in Article 1 which
doesn't apply to domestic or household workers enforce
that education is free through to grade nine but is not mandatory. Children under age 15, which supposedly is the legal
age to work, are endangered and risk their lives of being in
child laborer because the laws are not significantly restricting
the children but are also not legally authorized to work either. Although the law imposes that education is free for the
community, salaries are low for teachers and many resort to
charging extra fees from students for exams, snacks, tutoring
and class time. (2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor)

Activities that are categorized as under the worst forms of

child labor include the victims of those part of commercial
sexual exploitation and service activities that have branched
from human trafficking. Trafficking happens between Cambodia's neighboring countries and usually occurs from Cambodia to Thailand, Vietnam to Cambodia as well as within Cambodia the nation itself.

Child labor is not limited to just brick factory workers within

the industry sector of labor. Some child labor activities are
limited and the extent of the problem is uncertain it doesn't
necessarily equate to the decrease of child labor activities
but that the community may not realize such activities are illegal under law. Many labor activities found in industry factor

Established laws and regulations from the government have

addressed factors such as the minimum age for hazardous
work to be set at 18, prohibition of forced labor, child trafficking, sexual exploitation of children and in illicit activities. Despite these establishments, consistently following and addressing these laws are still slightly out of hand.


Perspectives: Child Labor in Brick Factories

Researched from Bunnak Poch of LICADHO

In July 2007, LICADHO and World Vision set out a research

team led by Dr. Poch Bunnak in order to assess and study
the causes/consequences of child labor in brick factories
from Cambodia's Battambang and Sang Ke districts. They
gathered their research by directly interviewing 132 child
workers, 43 parents and 15 brick factory owners/managers
from a total of 26 brick factories.

75% of these children have left school for more than two
years due to the fact that they lack enough money to provide for school supplies and transportation, issues regarding
discipline as well as personal reasons where one may have
poor grades, have a negative attitude to education, wanting
money or wanting to avoid the quarrels of parents and other
family problems This results in having only 55% of child
brick workers getting access to an education among the
74% of village children that attend school.

According to this research, it is estimated that between 400

to 500 children carry out their work daily in these brick factories when there is a high demand for labor in season. Child
brick workers ages 7-17 year olds work in this industry where
50% are not attending school. 50% of the parents of child
workers have at least 5 years of experience and made
slightly above 200,000 riels per month on average ($50 US

As a child worker in a brick factory, multiple tasks are usually

performed. These include pulling brick wheelbarrows, loading bricks in and out from the kiln, loading bricks onto and
out of brick wheelbarrows, loading bricks onto trucks, arranging bricks to set them for drying. Other children also operate
brick machines and fire kilns, in which this job places these
children in a vulnerable state where protection is limited
when dealing with heavy machinery.

Through the visions of a family with little financial support,



Perspectives: Child Laborers & Family

30.2% of 41 parents believe that introducing their child as a brick laborer was not too heavy to handle, 44.2% of 41 parents
stated that they were satisfied with the working hours controlled for their children. These statistics further determine that
many parents are unaware on the situation their child is in as they are convinced that working in such industries has no consequences on their mental wellness and physical being.
22.2% of children are being pressured and forced into work by their parents or guardians due to family debt and although this
number may seem minimal, they are still part of a generation that is necessary for the power and development of Cambodia
as a country. Brick factories allow for many job opportunities as they require little to no experience in the industry and that sophisticated skills are not required other than the power to perform heavy duty related tasks. In some families (54%) it is considered tradition that their children continue into their footsteps while others may find that their parents are too weak to continue
working to provide enough income. (Bunnak, Poch)


Perspectives: Child Brick Laborers Working Environment

The working environment in brick factories pose serious health risks and vulnerabilities that usually cause long term consequences on the child. Those working in the brick factories are exposed to unsanitary environments such as being surrounded
smoke, being around manure, contaminated/unclean tools/surroundings and with some, consuming pond water when one
lacks access to water. Additional health endangering issues include how child workers are tightly compacted in an area with
high heat, burning ashes, flying ashes and pieces of broken bricks/other substances which may lead to infections to an open
cut wound or risking oneself into receiving burns on their bodies.
In this research assessment, child workers have also stated that brick factories did not operate with any work regulations or
safety measures as well as not having access to any first aid kits. 54% of child workers were not limited and prohibited from
handling any task or job as the manager/owner is unaware or disregards this issue. Others who have reported there were
measures and regulations of the brick factory to some sort of extent banned the tasks of operating a brick machine, cutting
raw bricks, extracting, grinding, mixing clays, carrying clays, firing clins and cleaning burning ashes. It is also observed that
60% of the brick factory owners and managers interviewed were unaware of the existence on the statements and proclamations about child labor in Cambodia. (Bunnak, Poch)


Child Brick Workers Consequences
Engaging in activities of child labor have lead these child workers into developing a negative attitude and mindset towards
education by undermining its value. This leads to a higher chance of children receiving poor grades, skipping classes and being behind their average age group. 37.8% of child brick workers who worked over two years displayed a higher school dropout rate compared to 7.7% of others who engaged less in the industry. (Bunnak, Poch)
Specific health problems that are frequently encountered by child workers is that they suffer from eye irritations - watery or
itchy eyes due to the high exposure to smoke and flying ashes. Other evident problems include backaches, chest pain, headaches, skin rashes, difficulty in breathing and stomach ache which are all related to the dangerous situations child laborers are
faced with each day.
Minor injuries are common and occur on nearly one half of the child workers which range from cuts, bruises to burns. These
injuries are mainly caused by being under a falling brick, cutting oneself with a brick when transporting them - loading/
unloading or carrying by hand, cuts on the children's feet from sharp objects and minor burns that occur when unloading hot
bricks. There are only 10-15% of child workers that have suffered from serious cuts or burns but are not as frequent.

Building Futures



Each year, Friends International and partners have provided

support to over 50,000 children and youth from all types of
backgrounds under the care of 5 Friends programs in which
two are in Cambodia (Mith Samlanh program in Phnom Penh
and Kaliyan Mith program in Siem Reap). As an NGO, they
provide for the community with access to medical care, shelter and food as well as offer a wide variety of comprehensive
services as an approach to aiming to improve the lives of the
children and their families. They work with families to encourage and empower them to independently provide for themselves to eliminate the need to send their children to work.
Friends focuses on supporting marginalized urban children
and youth aged 0-24 years, street working and living
children/youth, migrant children/youth, children/youth in
prison, children/youth affected by HIV and AIDS, children/
youth using drugs, sex working children, families, the community and society as a whole. Street and marginalized children
are important and essential in developing the economic and
social factors of a country. Children without proper education
and vocational skills will only hinder the future of the community as it will continue to stay in an unstable matter. In order
to tackle this problem, Friends International provides immediate assistance to the children as well as including the involvement of governments to find additional long term solutions
for the children.

Friends International is a non-governmental organisation that
aims to protect and aid for marginalized urban children/youth
in which they will be able to pave a path to build their futures.
Since August 1994 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friends International has been taking action in response to the limited amount
of services provided for street children. Mith Samlanh, meaning
"Friends" in Khmer was the first project based in Phnom Penh
that targeted street children. Currently, this program is able to
provide support, education, medical and accommodation to
2000 children daily. Today, the project is widely renowned as a
successful supportive project for assisting the community. Additionally, Friends International has expanded as an organisation
where they are now working and starting new projects within
Cambodia as well as other countries across Asia. Fundings are
received from Friends International through a variety of private
and institutional donors where 10% of the annual income has
been a result of the NGO's own businesses. Friends International hopes to be able to support their own programs by 2020
through self funding means.


Friends-International Businesses
Social Businesses and independent programs run by Friends International, have been continuously saving lives and building futures
for marginalized children/youth. Furthermore, CYTI Alliance an organization partnered with Friends International has kept this NGO
running effectively and successfully along with involvement from society to protect children - ChildSafe Network, one of the programs that includes members of the community and society to prevent urban children from forms of danger/abuse.
To financially stabilize the sustainability of the organization's projects and minimize donor dependency, Friends International maintains the success of their activities with their four own income generating businesses. These include:

Training businesses: This business provides vocational training workshops for the youth with a purpose to understand real life
businesses. While providing learning experiences for the youth, it also generates income for the organization's projects. Sectors within the businesses further include restaurants, mechanic workshops, sewing workshops and farms.

Social businesses: This business includes projects where parents are able to create products from their homes, workshop production projects and students' cooperative.

Income generating initiatives: These initiatives branch out to create further businesses and products vary from clothing, postcards, posters, books, and commercial initiatives in order to supply an income for the organization

Services: This business offers consultancy services for other organizations that focus on training, research and evaluations.

To find out more and to get involved


About Me
Hi, my name is Sophoan and I am currently a student
studying at ISPP. For our final year in the MYP, we as grade
10s, are expected to complete our own personal project
which is a long term independent research piece and is
produced through our own initiatives. For my personal project, I wanted to inquire and explore into poverty and its
connecting with child labor in Cambodia as it is one of the
main issues that is currently affecting my home country.
Through this, I was able to express my passion of the arts
in my project as well. Additionally, I also admire the work
that Friends International has done for our community and
the successful collaborations ISPP has previously contributed in, therefore this has lead me into including Friends
International into my final product. Through my educational and informative visual book, I hope to highlight the
issue of child labor/poverty in Cambodia and spread
awareness on Friends International as an organization that
is determined in supporting/aiding as well as taking immense action in building a better future for our community.
Thank you


Works Cited
Adam, James. Children's Work in Cambodia. Rep. no. 38005. UNICEF, Dec. 2006. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
Bunnak, Poch. Child Labor in Brick Factories. Rep. LICADHO, Aug. 2004. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
"Cambodia." World Food Programme. WFP, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Carmichael, Robert. "Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor." Voice of America. VOA, 23 June 2015. Web. 13 Dec.
2015. <>.
Friends-International. Phnom Penh: n.p., 2010. Friends International. Friends International, 2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
"Rural Poverty in Cambodia." Rural Poverty Portal. IFAD, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Sutherland, James. "Friends International." Interviewing International Communications Coordinator of Friends International. ISPP, Phnom Penh. 3 Sept. 2015. Lecture.
"What Is Child Labour." International Labor Organization. ILO, n.d. Web. 13 Dec.
Wiener, Gary. Child Labor. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven, 2009. Print.
2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Rep. DOL, 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Friends International Charter. Phnom Penh: Friends International, Mar. 2009. PDF. 13 Dec.