Tackling poverty and improving the rights of LGBTI people in Cambodia
Although homosexuality is not criminalised, LGBTI people in Cambodia are regularly abused and subjected to socio-economic exclusion by their families, communities, employers, local authorities and the police. As a result, LGBTI people in Cambodia are more at risk of becoming, and remaining, poor.
According to the World Bank, 20% (400,000) of the 2 million people in Phnom Penh live below the poverty line. To make matters worse the gap in poverty reduction strategies is huge and development aid consistently fails to address LGBTI people.
The many levels of discrimination endured by LGBT people, include:
- Rejection by their families and communities forcing many to leave home and give up school
- Abusive police often arresting gays and transwomen
- Forced marriages of lesbians and transgender men
- Little access to health services including sexual and reproductive health
- Few job opportunities and discrimination in the workplace
- Isolation and lack social safety nets
- LGBT students and teachers regularly being removed from schools.
MRI consulted with local LGBTI people and other stakeholders and piloted activities in Cambodia for over three years. MRI is now scaling its poverty reduction activities nationally. MRI’s poverty reduction programme includes:
- Facilitating micro-credit to impoverished LGBTI people
- Training on small business management and one-to-one mentoring
- Monthly peer support group meetings
- Lobbying and advocacy.
MRI’s poverty reduction programme is already showing three interesting results:
- It creates new, practical and life-changing opportunities (to improve skills, better chances to find jobs, to set up small businesses,) for LGBTI people to step out of poverty that do not exist locally; it is instrumental in improving the livelihoods of many poor LGBTI people
- It changes social attitudes and the negative stereotypes that Cambodian society associates with LGBTI people. In Cambodia society thinks that LGBTI people are destined to be homeless, poor and at the margins of society. However, MRI’s programme shows that when people start to earn some money and help the family, the community and society financially, their status improves and there is greater acceptance
- It provides new data and life stories that are powerful tools for local advocacy for better rights.
For more information, please contact MRI’s project manager.
The article explains why LGBTI people in Cambodia are financially excluded and why they become or stay poor. It also explains what MRI is doing to ensure that LGBTI people can access micro-finance products to step out of poverty.
MRI visited and consulted with the LGBTI community in Somroung Yong district, which is part of the Takeo Province to tackle poverty of LGBTI people by providing technical support and financial assistance.