The Story behind Nikita

In the rural Cambodian province of Kampong Speu, working opportunities are scarce and pay is minimal. Over 57% of people are living below the poverty line. Youths are often the primary income earners of the family, sustaining 5-7 people by scavenging discarded food scraps, begging and collecting rubbish at the central market of Peanicha Kam Village. They work from dawn until dusk, risking their health and serious injury to collect goods such as plastic bottles to sell to local recycling agents. They earn around US$0.40 per day.

UNICEF identifies the province as a trafficking hot spot. Parents who are desperate to provide simple shelter and food for their children often approach loan sharks for loans that they can never hope to repay. Human traffickers choose their moment with sinister intelligence. After repeated visits from loan sharks who threaten the family’s property and safety, a human trafficker will approach an impoverished family offering the hope of minimising their debt. This hope comes at a price and the price is their child.

Usually a daughter aged between13-17 is offered ‘employment’ in a neighbouring country, most often Malaysia or Thailand. The information about the proposed job is minimal but alarmingly, many families willingly accept the offer. The community awareness of the dangers of cross-border migration, trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse is disturbingly low and payment for their child offers the chance to repay a debt that they could otherwise never hope to pay off in their lifetime.

The trafficking rate offered to a parent for their child is around US$250.