Cooperating organisation in Cambodia

04.01 2019

The Pilot was held in Phnom Penh in February 2014. MHHRI was cooperating with AFESIP Cambodia. This NGO “cares for and secures the rights of women and girls victimized by human trafficking and sex slavery”, and has worked for that goal since 1996. A number of other NGO-partners were invited to join the workshop, the workshop had 31 participants. There were caretakers, legal advisors, medical advisors, psychologists and others, all working with the consequences of GBV. Some of the participants were themselves survivors of GBV/severe traumatization, which represented a potential challenge during the workshop.

About Cambodia

With about 15 mio inhabitants, located in the southern portion of the Indochina-Peninsula, Cambodia  is amongst the densely populated countries of the world. Phnom Penh alone as the capital hosts about 2,2 mio people. The historic roots of the country are going back to the Khmer Empire about 800 AD. In newer history it became french protectorate in 1863, and first in 1953 it gained independence. The Vietnam War extended into Cambodia, during which the “Khmer Rouge” took the capital Phnom Penh. While the Khmer Rouge were in power, estimated 2 mio people got killed (estimations from 1 to 3 mio), which represented about 25 % of the population. In these times the term “Killing Fields” has risen (Cambodian Genocide at worst 1975-1979). Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia afterwards. Peace efforts began in 1989, resulting in peace settlement in 1991. Monarchy was restored in 1993. The country was shaken again by a coup d’état in 1997, politics settled gradually, nowadays Cambodia counts officially as a multiparty democracy under constitutional monarchy.


Cambodia is said to be one of the most corrupt regimes in the region, may be in the world. Probably about 30% of the population are living of less than 1 USD a day, lots of children are malnurished. Human Rights Organisations are still claiming violations of human rights. Cambodia was once one of the most landmined countries in the world, unexploded landmines are acc. some estimations responsible for about 60.000 deaths and lots of injured, despite efforts removing mines there are still casualties after hitting a forgotten mine. First in 2010 the first Khmer-Rouge-Member was found guilty, the country is still coping with the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, most of the families are still suffering of the consequences and have lost relatives. Prostitution is wide spread, in combination with trafficking, and the victims are often still minors/children.

Feedback from the participants

  • all over there was very positive feedback for the concept of the workshop, introducing the picture of traumatization by a story/metaphor, and basic techniques to cope.
  • some discussion whether the metaphor of the “Butterfly-Woman” fits in for Cambodia. Some suggested that f.i. the “White Lotus Woman” would do better, or may be the picture of a pigeon. The story by itself was considered as convenient.
  • most of the participants expressed the urgent need of basic “tools” when meeting survivors. Grounding exercises were highly appreciated.
  • translation into Khmer was considered as very helpful for future utilization
  • the amount of information mediated in just some days could be almost overwhelming
  • some video-clips could enhance the learning effects.
  • there is clearly the need for more information about f.i. nightmares, self-care techniques for the helpers, more grounding exercises and the wish for more knowledge especially about the impact of traumatization on youngsters/children and the possibility to help. The few days of the workshop are not sufficient enough to cover that.

How the pilot in Cambodia influenced the manual

We decided after some discussion to keep the picture of the “Butterfly-Woman”, but to emphasize in the manual that this metaphor/concept can be changed and adepted according to local circumstances. We also added some more grounding exercises, and tried to group them in a more meaningful way.