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Major Problems Found

In Cambodia

The following components of the situation analysis are listed in alphabetical order which is not necessarily the order of importance. The purpose of this section is to give a broad overview of the country of Cambodia, as the context within which the SCO work occurs. The next Section (3.0 “Problem Analysis”) much more specifically relates to the actual locations where SCO is implementing its projects.
Currently, Cambodia ranks 114/157 countries in terms of progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (Sachs et al. 2017) and ranks 146/189 on the 2018 Human Development Index (UNDP 2019). Amid the improved prosperity, however, are challenges of corruption (Cambodia is once again ranked a Southeast Asia’s most corrupt country, as the Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, released on 23 January 2020, has placed Cambodia at 162/180 on a worldwide list, a slight decline from last year’s ranking of 161); human trafficking, (in 2019, Cambodia was on the Tier 2 Watchlist of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report produced annually by the US Department of State) and human rights .
As of the most recent census (2008), the population is growing at an annual rate of 1.54 percent (UNICEF 2017; NIS 2008).  However, Cambodia has experienced decreasing fertility in recent years and the 2014 total fertility rate was 2.7 children per woman, with higher fertility among women in rural areas, women with no education, and the poorest (NIS, DGH, and ICF 2015). According to the most recent DHS (2014), 9 percent of deaths among females 15–49 are related to pregnancy or childbearing. The maternal mortality ratio has decreased from 472 per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 170 in 2014. However, most of that improvement took place between 2005 and 2010, with no significant improvement since 2010. Although infant and under-5 mortality have improved steadily since 2000, one in 29 children dies before reaching 5 years of age (NIS, DGH, and ICF 2015).

child, Early,

Forced Married

CEFM (Child, Early, Forced Marriage) Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights. Many factors interact to place a child at risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide “protection”, family honor, and social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country’s civil registration system. Child marriage negatively impacts the lives of 14 million girls around the world each year, interrupting schooling and limiting career choices. Child marriage often results in early pregnancy and social isolation and can lead to an increased risk of domestic violence. In Cambodia, there is a persistent (mis)understanding that child marriage is exclusive to indigenous ethnic minority communities, when in fact it is an (underreported) issue in the majority Khmer population. Available statistics are as follows: 2% of girls in Cambodia are married by age 15; 17% by age 18. According to UNICEF, one in three girls aged 15-19 who have never attended school have started to bear children, which often leads to child marriage.

Relevance to SCO: SCO is aware that there may be CEFM happening in its locations, though this is not a widespread practice in urban areas. Sunshine Cambodia will include in its programming, prevention messages for parents and relevant stakeholders, and will also talk about the negative consequences of forced child marriage with groups that engage in the activities of Sunshine Cambodia in order to protect them from this issues.

TIP) Report produced annually by the US Department of State) and human rights .

CEFM (Child, Early, Forced Marriage) Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights. Many factors interact to place a child at risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide “protection”, family honor, and social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country’s civil registration system.   Child marriage negatively impacts the lives of 14 million girls around the world each year, interrupting schooling and limiting career choices. Child marriage often results in early pregnancy and social isolation and can lead to an increased risk of domestic violence.

child labor

Verisk Maplecroft’s recently compiled 2020 Child Labour Index ranked Cambodia 28th in the world (with #1 being the worst), and the highest risk among Southeast Asian countries, for the use of underage workers.   In 2018, Cambodia made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government issued a Royal Decree authorizing the National Committee on Child Labor, within the Cambodian National Council for Children, to begin operations. In addition, the labor inspectorate revamped its factory inspection questionnaire to align with the ILO Better Factories Cambodia questionnaire. Moreover, the government institutionalized a counter trafficking in persons training curriculum for the Cambodian National Police Academy.

However, children in Cambodia [still] engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in forced labor in brickmaking, as well as in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Due to challenges in accessing basic education and the absence of a compulsory education requirement, children are vulnerable to involvement in the worst forms of child labor. Insufficient resources also hamper the labor inspectorate’s capacity to enforce child labor laws, especially in rural areas where the majority of child laborers work.

Relevance to SCO:  There are many children in SCO’s target locations who do “child labor” because their parents believe it is necessary for family survival that their children earn income – it may not be official a “worst form of child labour” but it is still child labour and therefore it is illegal.  To address child labour in its target communities, SCO will strengthen and mainstream anti-child labor messaging especially in the target communities by including the messages of child labor prevention to all kinds of people that it works with and by making and using some existing resources and materials of Partners to do awareness and posting publicly in the communities.  It is necessary that people understand the ways of allowing the children to do the works properly based on the labor law of Cambodia and based on the international and national conventions for child rights.  

child protections

Both physical and emotional violence are prevalent in
Cambodia, with the majority of children aged between 13 and 17 reporting
experiencing physical violence (61.1% of females and 58.2% of males) and
emotional violence (24.3% of females and 27.3% of males). The majority of
children experiencing both types of violence reported it occurring multiple


     Parents, especially mothers, caregivers, and
other adult family members, are the most common perpetrators of physical and
emotional violence against children. In fact, “home” is the most common place
where children experience violence, most of it through corporal and humiliating

Sexual violence is also prevalent, with 6% of
females and 5% of males aged 13 to 17 reporting at least one experience of
sexual abuse before the age of 18. For boys this mostly occurred at home from
family members, while girls often experience sexual violence from romantic
partners, peers and from teachers (with school being the most common place of
the first incident of sexual violence).

Outside of home settings, teachers (especially
males) are the most common perpetrators of physical violence. Over half of both
girls and boys aged 13 to 17 years reported experiencing physical violence by a
male teacher (58.6% and 51.7%, respectively) at least once, 70 and 29% of children
12 to 15 years old have had direct experience of physical punishment by a teacher
over the last 12 months. 

Studies show that corporal punishment in schools
is a widely accepted form of discipline and training for children – 63% of
teachers reported to have used corporal punishment against children over the
last 12 months.  Students between the
ages of 6 and 14 report that being hit with a hand or stick is the most common
form of corporal punishment by teachers in primary schools.


to SCO:  Sunshine Cambodia will
strengthen and develop a strong structure and network of child safe-guarding in
its own work place, and in target communities. Safe-guarding is much more
proactive than is “child protection”. 
SCO will try to develop strong child safeguarding practices in its
member and partners agencies (including Royal Government of Cambodia). 



the organizational level, SCO will nominate/recruit a staff in charge to take
responsibility for child safeguarding. S/he will work strongly to build and
strengthen child protection in the working place, the target communities and
other relevant target areas. The safeguarding will include response mechanisms
to report and take action on time in case of a suspicious activity in all those

child Rights

The Child Rights Now! Coalition’s 2019 report clearly identified six key areas of change required in order for Cambodian children to be able to access and utilize their rights.  Those priority areas of intervention include:  Early Childhood Care Development; Education; Child protection; Nutrition; WASH; and Participation. 


SCO operates the works in some urban poor communities of Phnom Penh City and the target Province. The priority areas of the Child Rights that we are committed to working together to promote both knowledge and implementation, including: Education, Protection, Participation and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). We also work to deal with some cross-cutting issues that often occur in the communities.

We have serving children on the street. Students who lack resources for their education. 

The pandemic has had enormous negative impact around the world, and perhaps even more so in low-income countries like Cambodia.   There have been three major negative impacts (in addition to the loss of life) and these affect females (girls and women) disproportionately.   First, during this pandemic, rates of violence have increased (gender-based violence, violence against children, etc.).  Second, children’s schooling has been severely disrupted and this will have long-term repercussions on their futures – in Cambodia, children lost nearly a whole semester and may yet lose a second semester.  Third, millions of people already on the edge of poverty, are economically affected – factories in Cambodia have closed leaving tens of thousands of people (mostly women) without income; migrants to Thailand were forced to return to Cambodia, leaving their families without income; street vendors had no customers (e.g. snack sellers at schools were abruptly put out of business); laborers found their construction sites closed; etc.  And fourth nutrition and health status of vulnerable populations, including children, is negatively impacted.


Relevance to SCO:  Sunshine Cambodia will continue to stay up on the situation of COVID-19 in Cambodia, and will respond accordingly with both its internal practice (meetings, social distancing, wearing masks, etc.).

To address the negative employment situation caused by COVID-19, SC will also focus more on how to help and develop the target families that we will work with on their income generation opportunities to support their family needs. We will develop both the existing program and the new program by considering to extend on occupation and business start-up as much as based on resources and funding, to help and increase the possibility of starting and extending the works of the families, so they will have enough incomes to support the needs of their families.


Depending upon how long the COVID-19 restrictions last, it will be important for SCO to also consider how it can support child learning during this time.  Public schools will be the last top open because they cannot affords to do the rigorous controls that private schools can do; so the poor in Cambodia will once again be most adversely affected.  SCO can/will/should develop creative ways to promote child learning (e.g. Reading Camps, Learning Clubs, etc.) which will not contradict Government restrictions but which will allow children to have structured and supervised learning opportunities.

The Cambodian Government is strongly committed to the UN Sustainable Development goals, or SDGs).  Compared to the 9 targets and 14 indicators of global SDG 5, the CSDGs  have 7 targets and 12 indicators.


Relevance to SCO:  Sunshine Cambodia will contribute to the achievement of 7 of the SDGs: 

§  Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

§  Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

§  Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

§  Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

§  Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

§  Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all


§  Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 

The primary duty-holder for provision of public education for children from pre-school to tertiary level, is the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport.  While the access to and quality of public education has been steadily improving, especially for females, recently the nation’s enrollment and completion rates have actually been declining.  And poor learning outcomes persist, indicating a serious quality issue. 

§  Education quality remains low:

o  In a 2014 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), only 35.2% of grade 3 children passed the Khmer language test; and only 45.7% of grade 6 students passed Khmer language test. In other words, less than half of the children who complete grade 6 have basic Khmer language literacy skills.


§  Education completion rates remain low (figures not specified by sex, from 2017-2018 school year):

o   Primary school completion rate is 82.7%; boys are less likely to complete than girls are to complete.

o   Lower secondary completion rate is 46.5%.

o   Upper secondary school completion rate is and 23.6%.

§  National expenditure on formal education remains low:

o   Public education expenditure and per child spending is US $217 in Cambodia, compared to US $1,200 in Asia Pacific.

o   The proportion of GDP dedicated to education is at 2.7% (2018); while the share of national budget is 18.3% (2016).

§  Higher education enrolment remains lowest among ASEAN nations; and the quality and relevance of that education is questionable.

Quality deficiencies are demonstrated by recent PISA-D  results, illustrated by the following two quotes from that report: 

The performance gap between the 10% best-performing students in Cambodia and those in ASEAN countries is 124 score points, equivalent of more than 4 years of schooling. This shows that Cambodia’s education system needs to focus more on student’s competence from the low grades in order to compete with the students in ASEAN countries or beyond.”

In Cambodia, student performance in reading…is significantly below PISA-D average…. Reading appeared to be the weakest of the three PISA-D subjects. Across OECD and ASEAN countries, higher performances in mathematics and science tended to be strongly associated with the higher performance in reading, reflecting that improving reading literacy among students is key to student performance in other subjects.” (p. 28)


Limited quality of education has serious implications for Cambodia’s aspiration to become a middle-income country by 2030.  WEF 2019 Global Competitiveness Report ranks Cambodia as 94th out of 137 countries. That report identified “corruption” as the most important reason for limited competitiveness; an “inadequately educated workforce” was the second most important reason; and “insufficient capacity to innovate” and “poor work ethic in national labor force” were also in the top 11/16 variables listed that negatively affect Cambodia’s economic competitiveness.

Despite its demographic advantage, Cambodia’s labor force is characterized by low-education and low-skills. As a result, Cambodia finds itself in the challenging process of economic transition as it aims to move beyond low-skill, low-value activities and expand its industrial base to generate broad-based inclusive growth. Multiple studies have pointed to skills mismatches and shortages in the labor market, especially lower to middle skills. The shortage of educated and skilled labor…make it difficult for Cambodia to compete with neighboring countries for foreign direct investment. The Industrial Development Policy clearly recognizes the need to develop a proper human resource capacity. Cambodia should as a priority develop…technical know-how…to diversify [from] production into higher value-added activities and improve the country’s skills base. Nutrition, early childhood and quality primary and basic education, TVET and higher education among others are the foundation for skill development. (p. 6).

Relevance to SCO:  The core work of Sunshine Cambodia is improve the life chances of children from poor families through improving access to quality education. Sunshine Cambodia will implement two approaches to accomplish this:

(1)- The first approach is to work directly with children and their parents/ guardians.

o   With children, SC facilitates Child Clubs and Youth Clubs (distinguished by age of participants). Only children/youth who are formally enrolled by SCO can participate in the Clubs.

o   For children’s public school education: SC supports by paying rien kuar (informal) fees to teachers and simultaneously advocating that teachers do not charge these fees to poor students; by paying for classes additional to public school (mathematics, Khmer, English, computer), and by providing study materials, uniforms, and bicycles.

o   SC creates opportunities for children to express their rights through some activities such as activity plan for helping the communities (e.g. physical clean-up of garbage to make community clean and tidy), facilitate some activities with the local authorities, and other development works. 

o   For parents/guardians, SC does Club.  

o   For parents/guardians SC helps by providing training, education about planning and business, and small loans/grants for family business start-up in the communities. The purpose is to help families become self-sufficient and earn enough income that they can provide for all the needs of their own children and members, including education fees and expenses.

o   For parents/guardians, SC also provides teaching about child’s rights, parenting skills, and family financial management – again, with the goal of helping to improve family dynamics and parenting.

(2)The second approach is to work directly to strengthen some elements of the public school system. This is new for SCO. 

o   SCO will work with school principals, teachers, education officials, School Support Committee, and Student Councils to improve the quality of their functioning, their accountability to rights-holders (students, families), to improve their pedagogical skills so that children actually learn basic numeracy and literacy (as well as other subjects)


o   As possible, SCO will help to improve the school physical environment to be in line with Government standards. 

“’Gender equality has never been part of Cambodian society and women are still often regarded as subordinate and dependent on their male family’ (Baudinet 2018, 6) and “Cambodia has a strong tradition of enforcing cultural norms pertaining to women – how they should look, act or think (Thon 2017, 32).’”   In summary:

To a considerable degree, traditional gender norms that position men as breadwinners and women as homemakers and/or child caretakers still prevail in Cambodia and are at the root of many development challenges for both men and women. As a result of these embedded norms, women face multiple burdens on their time and energy, as well as limited opportunities, mobility, and agency.  Lower educational attainment and illiteracy, which disproportionately affect women, compound women and girls’ disadvantages, undermine their confidence, and stymie efforts to increase women’s voice and agency.  Men, who face the traditional burden of breadwinner, can be left out of development activities and benefits as a result of their roles and responsibilities.

Over the past decade, Cambodia has made some progress in closing the gender gap in terms of political, economic, health, and education measures.  According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020, Cambodia ranks 89 out of 153 countries,  and has only marginally increased its overall gender equality score in recent years, from .648 in 2010 to .662 in 2016 to 0.694 in 2020 (a score of 1.0 represents gender equality).  The sub-indices are instructive. Cambodia is doing well on the relatively simplistic health and survival measures included in the scale (.975, a slight drop from 0.98 in 2016) and has made steady progress in the past decade to close the gender gap within the educational attainment category , currently at 0.939 (significantly up from 0.891 in 2016 and .866 in 2010). Cambodia scores 0.759 for economic participation and opportunity (up from .681 in 2016 and .638 in 2010); and scores lowest for political empowerment at 0.103 (up from .098 in 2016, but a decline from .110 in 2010).

Separating the average by region, the WEF estimates that East Asia and Pacific will take another 163 years to close the gender gap, the longest compared to any other region including the Middle East and North Africa.


Relevance to SCO:  Sunshine Cambodia recognizes the importance of promoting gender equality and appreciates the fact that this is a priority for ERIKS and that ERIKS provides training accountability.  SCO will make a greater effort under this new Strategy, to engage with other groups such as GAD-C who can train SCO staff in skills of gender analysis and gender responsive/transformative programming.   

This prevalence of under-nutrition in Cambodia constitutes a public health emergency, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards:  32 percent of children under 5 years suffer from stunting, 24 percent are underweight, and 10 percent are wasted.  Interestingly, while poverty is certainly one cause of malnutrition, 18% of children under-5 in wealthy families are also stunted suggesting that feeding practices.

Children malnutrition is caused by a number of factors  including: (1) lack of awareness of nutritious foods from food variety providing protein, energy, and micro-nutrients that human needs for healthy growth and development, (2) inadequate infant and young child feeding and care practices referring to breastfeeding, complementary feeding, (3) low utilization of health services for treatment and prevention, (4) and limited access to food and food availability, and (5) lack of sanitation and hygiene.  One of the primary causes of child malnutrition in Cambodia is diarrhoea as a result of poor sanitation in households and community.  


Relevance to SCO:  Sunshine Cambodia will focus more in the area of nutrition. This part is very important, still there are a lot of children have malnutrition in the communities. Parents lack of understanding of the nutrition, they do not care of what their children eat, and also do not know on how to feed their children with the right and safe foods. SC will study more in this area to gain more of knowledge and experiences in order to help the parents and their children to avoid from malnutrition. 

Cambodia has a very robust policy environment, supported by a multitude of bilateral, multi-lateral, and non-governmental agencies.  Cambodia has signed on to nearly all international conventions.  This includes commitments to child rights (UN-CRC), women’s rights (CEDAW), gender equality, nutrition, decent work and workers’ rights, indigenous people’s rights, environmental conservation, and so forth.  Recently, there has been a lot of action around “Social Protection” with the passage of the National Social Protection Policy Framework 2016-2025 in June, 2017 and the National Policy On Child Protection System 2019-2029 in May, 2020.  However, the implementation of all these good policies falls very short of the documented commitments.



Relevance to SCO:  SCO will ensure that staff are aware of and knowledgeable about the policy context in which their programming sits.  This awareness forms the basis on which SCO can motivate appropriate action by legal duty-bearers at community level. Where relevant, SCO may choose to engage in advocacy with other NGOs as a way to promote local action on national policy commitments.

The definition of “poverty” in Cambodia is hotly contested.  The RGC measures the poverty rate based on earnings only. Defining as “poor”, those who earn less than $1.90 a day. With this measure, the poverty rate was 13.5% at the end of 2018. So, strictly speaking in RGC terms, one person can be said to be in poverty if they earn $1.89 per day but another not in poverty if they earn $1.91 per day.   Another definition of poverty was put forward by the UNDP in 2018, called “multi-dimensional poverty.”  This index takes into consideration health, education, and living standards, in addition to income. By that measure, the percentage of poor in Cambodia is 35% (not 13.5%).

As the World Bank reported in 2019, there are still many households that are only just above the poverty line (of earning $1.90 per day) and have limited ability to absorb shocks, even small ones.  Any negative shock reducing consumption per capita by Cambodian riel 2,000 (US$0.50) will double the poverty rate. As the WB Report notes, poverty reduction continues but the bottom 40% of the population are doing “less well” than before.


§  Most of those living in urban poor communities are employed in low-skill occupations, and 60 percent of households earn less than $75 a month.

§  More than two-thirds of the urban poor are in debt, with loan payments forming a “significant portion of monthly expenditures.” Most of these payments go towards paying down interest rather than the principle.

§  44% of population engaged in service employment had increased to 46% from 2015-2016, while it was stable in industry sectors with 27%. But the employment in agriculture had fallen from 29% to 27%.

§  Around 4.5 million people remain near-poor, vulnerable to falling back into poverty when exposed to economic and other external shocks.

In summary, Cambodia’s Human Capital Index score  demonstrates gaps in health, early childhood nutrition, education, and skills which constrain the productivity of the future labor force. Cambodia has an overall HCI value of 0.49, meaning that—based upon the status of health and education outcomes—a child born today will be 49 percent as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education, good health, and a well-nourished childhood.


Relevance to SCO:   Sunshine Cambodia has strong belief that in order to address the root causes of poverty, it is important to start with good education for children.  For this reason, SC has chosen to invest on education sector with the children, especially the poor and vulnerable children that they do not have much opportunity for studying. We have invested and also continue to invest stronger on this sector, because we want to see a long-term solution and free from the poverty.


At the same time, SCO also has to focus more on how to increase the activities that can help especially the parents/guardians of the children to have enough income to support the needs of their family.  In addition to support with skills development and small loans/grants to start-up businesses, SCO knows it is absolutely vital to also work with all family members to improve their financial management.  So that will be a new focus under this Strategy.

Nearly 21% of people in Cambodia live in cities – by 2050 that figure is expected to be at 36%.  Phnom Penh has an estimated 2 million residents currently and is the largest and fastest growing city in the country.  


Relevance to SCO:   Sunshine Cambodia extend the activities based on the trend of the people and their problems. For this reason that Sunshine Cambodia decide to keep its activities in the city in order to response to the needs of the people that would be happen in the next changes. At the same time, SC still consider to start its programs in the rural communities to deal with any issues, especially, the issues of children and their study, safety and health. We will consider to work both in the city and in the rural communities.  

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