Phnom Penh – Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) is a child’s rights non-governmental organization operating in Cambodia since 2003 that works to reduce all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation through prevention, protection and promotion of prosecution. Partnering closely with the Cambodian National Police, APLE assists in the rescue of victims of child sexual exploitation. With a dedicated team of lawyers, social workers and investigators, APLE seeks to rehabilitate and attain justice for victims. For July 2015, our office achieved key outcomes as follows:
Social Support Program
Our social work department followed up its client in Siem Reap province, who was rescued from sexual abuse in mid-2012 and provided with social and legal protection. He was just 14 years old at that time. Since his reintegration to his family, he has rebuilt his life and continued his study at grade 7 at a high school in the province. Our congratulations to him as he has built a strong commitment and made a good plan for his own life. Our social worker participated in a “Boy First” training with 18 participants from other NGOs. The training enabled knowledge and experience sharing among participants about caring for boy victims. It was a great opportunity for our social worker to develop her capacity to respond to the needs of all children in the best manner possible. The department conducted 111 follow-up meetings with clients, 1 victim got access to medical care, and 2 referrals to the shelter.
Our investigation department has been working with its informants, who are becoming the eyes and ears on the ground to prevent child sexual abuse. In addition to existing valuable informants in the prevention of child sexual abuse and exploitation, APLE seeks to establish a new network of informants in hotspot locations to ensure that suspicious behaviour is reported timely. While the number of reports to our 24/7 Hotline increases continuously, there remain some challenges. People do not want to report because they may not understand, trust, or want to be involved with the legal process; however, there is no reason for hesitancy. The public could report any suspicion of child sexual abuse to: www.aplecambodia.org/reportcrimes and it is anonymous and confidential. The investigation team conducted 18 meetings with relevant stakeholders to work on child protection, received 20 cases through hotline, email and staff, and investigated 18 cases.
Awareness and Training Program
The awareness and training department has a key role to empower the community to prevent abuse. As an evidence, on 17th July, two training sessions for informants about how to identify grooming techniques and report the crimes were conducted in Siem Reap province. The 48 selected informants include taxi drivers, hotel staff, cooks, tour guides, students, villagers, NGO personnel, and local authorities that are in the forefront of child protection. One of APLE’s priorities is to empower communities to prevent abuse in the first place.
Furthermore, on 28 July – 1 August 2015, APLE Cambodia conducted its annual retreat for all staff in Sihanoukville. The retreat provided staff the opportunity to share their work, to initiate a strategic planning process, to learn from the best practices by relevant stakeholders in the province, and to get first aid training. In addition, we visited our partner organization M’lop Tapang and a field visit to Cambrew Angkor factory. The retreat encouraged staff to focus on their tasks and continue their hard work of protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
Legal Support Program
It is so proud that child-friendly practices come to fruition in Cambodian courts. For instance, on 21 July, during the trial at Siem Reap Provincial Court, we saw an APLE privacy screen being used in the courtroom, which enabled our client to testify in confidence and without fear. Often, our lawyer has to propose its use; however, the judge put it there from the start this time. This shows a great development and progress towards the use of child-friendly practices in court. With funding from Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, APLE has donated 16 privacy screens to the courts in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battambang, and Banteay Meanchey, as well as the Appeal Court and Supreme Court. Though criminal courtrooms are often scary for children, these privacy screens help to comfort and protect children who find themselves in this difficult situation. During the month, the legal department provided legal counseling and support to 19 victims and family members and represented 13 victims and families at the courts.