This guest blog from Seila Samleang, Executive Director of 2015 Impact Award winner APLE Cambodia, outlines its plans for the next five years in detail and demonstrates why local organisations are best-placed to implement change in their communities, acting as successful intermediaries between communities and official systems of authority.
APLE Cambodia is a specialised NGO dedicated to combating child sexual abuse and exploitation in Cambodia. Since 2003, APLE Cambodia has worked closely with national and international law enforcement to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, raise awareness, and bring offenders to justice. Between 2003 and 2015, APLE has rescued 692 victims of sexual abuse, trained 10,106 individuals in how to handle such challenging and sensitive cases, and contributed to 259 successful convictions of offenders.
"The award ceremony gave us an invaluable opportunity to tell the world of our greatest story about the success earned after so much time working extremely hard to protect the most vulnerable people. " - Seila Samleang, Executive Director of APLE Cambodia
I attended the 2015 Impact Award ceremony, held in Versailles, where Award winners came together to network, share experiences and receive recognition of their achievements and felt privileged to have interactions with a lot of people who do care and inspire. I found the capacity building meeting to be a worthwhile experience to learn of so many best practices of the other awards winners and I’m convinced most of these can be replicated in Cambodia. Further, the award ceremony gave us an invaluable opportunity to tell the world of our greatest story about the success earned after so much time working extremely hard to protect the most vulnerable people.
In continuation of this work, part of APLE Cambodia’s award funding will support its recently adopted a five-year strategic plan (2016-2020), designed to structure its crucial work on the protection of the most vulnerable children in Cambodia. The strategy includes four key pillars: criminal justice development, court support, community engagement, and research and advocacy.
Criminal Justice Development: The first pillar includes the type of work that APLE Cambodia is most well-known for and demonstrates APLE Cambodia’s belief that strengthening government institutions relevant to the criminal justice system is crucial to achieving long-term sustainable change. This pillar looks directly at existing formal social and legal protection mechanisms and enables people to better protect children at risk of, or affected by, sexual abuse and exploitation.
Court Support: APLE Cambodia will continue to provide high quality and timely legal and social support to enable victims of sexual abuse to pursue justice without further trauma and will advocate on their behalf. In addition, APLE Cambodia will involve the Department of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (DoSVY) and other NGOs, to provide care to victims. This pillar aims to strengthen informal social and legal mechanisms through development and sharing of best practice guidelines for supporting victims and their families, case-by-case advocacy, and strategic partnerships.
Community Engagement: The third pillar relies on engaging key members of communities in prevention. A lack of understanding about how to protect children from sexual abuse leaves them vulnerable. APLE Cambodia will work to change this through education, by building a committed informant network, and running phone and internet hotlines where the public can report online and offline abuse anonymously and confidentially. This pillar boosts informal social protection mechanisms that exist in communities and encourages people to be proactive in preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Research and Advocacy: The fourth pillar recognises that evidence is key to APLE Cambodia’s work. By carrying out research to analyse previous trends and explore emerging areas of interest, and providing evidence of these findings, APLE Cambodia can advocate for positive changes in laws and the criminal justice process. This pillar calls for changes in formal legal protection mechanisms to ensure children both at risk of, or affected by, child sexual abuse and exploitation are prioritised and protected at the highest level.
We believe that knowledge empowers and empowerment leads to prevention. We build local capacity by equipping a variety of target groups with the knowledge and tools to identify abuse and grooming and report suspicious behaviour.
The Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 is based on the outputs and conclusions from all our activities. We hope it will enable us to optimise our impact on strengthening legal and social protection mechanisms, which are crucial to preventing and responding to child sexual abuse and exploitation, and take us closer to achieving our ultimate vision of a safer community for our children. We look forward to receiving continued support from relevant stakeholders and counterparts to ensure a better protection system.