Real Life Lost Boys? Chab Dai, Kavi, Lion

 Red + Blue = Purple! Chab Dai, Kavi, Lion on Freedom Fortnight's "Freedom Friday."

Red + Blue = Purple! Chab Dai, Kavi, Lion on Freedom Fortnight's "Freedom Friday."

F14Chab Dai, welcome and thanks for joining us for this Freedom Fortnight!

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you give us your "about us" in a sentence or two?

CD: Absolutely, it is our belief that no one organization can address this complex issue on their own. In order to address a global networked problem, we need a global networked solution. Chab Dai is committed to working together with diverse stakeholders to abolish all forms of abuse and exploitation. Founded in Cambodia in 2005, Chab Dai means “joining hands” in Khmer. We now work with multiple coalitions and partners in over 30 countries.

F14: Can you tell us a little of your motivation for the work you do and the way you do it?

CD: We are inspired by our Christian faith in that all people are created in the image of God and have the right to freedom and hope. We are commitment to excellence as we work strategically and collaboratively to:

  • Facilitate connectivity
  • Generate & share knowledge
  • Advocate for transformed societies and empowered communities
  • Support, strengthen and promote hope for the future

F14: Freedom and hope. Freedom and hope. Maybe even a new hope... Thanks for sharing about you. Now on to what you've been up to...


F14Do you have something specific that you have made progress on in the past year (however large or small!) that you would like to highlight to people who care about anti-trafficking, so we can celebrate together?

CD: Chab Dai has worked with over 200 individual cases last year providing support to clients and their families as well as bringing cases to justice. Our prevention teams have trained more than two thousand community members and influential leaders on keeping their community safe from exploitation. These community member with support from us have reached more than 10,000 families throughout Cambodia and distributed over 60,000 “Help Cards” which Chab Dai’s 24 hour hotline number and local police numbers printed on it. Leading to a response of reporting trafficking cases in their own communities. Our Coalition team has provided training and support to more than one thousand grassroots workers in Cambodia. Finally, over the past year we have just published our first research paper on boys who are survivors of trafficking.

F14: So... case-work and client support, training thousands of people, getting the word out to tens of thousands of people could be vulnerable to trafficking andresearch. Whew. That's a lot. And awesome. So much to celebrate!

Can you tell us some more about survivors who are boys. What's the backstory on that?

CD: In 2010 Chab Dai launched a ten-year research project to better understand re-integration for boys, girls, men and women who are survivors of trafficking for sexual purposes. Over a period of 10 years, this study aims to better understand the experiences of more than 100 survivors of abuse who have been re-integrated back into society after rehabilitation. The research team follows study participants starting from the time they are in the aftercare program and throughout their transition into a community setting.

F14A 10 year study. Wow! That's commitment, and you're about 7 years in. Why do a decade long study?

CD: The purpose is to “hear” from the survivors themselves, about their lives, understandings and experiences, so their voices can contribute towards a greater understanding of the complexities of re-integration. The research team releases 1-2 reports on findings each year. Our most recent reports elaborate on thematic findings around resilience, stigma, filial piety and gender.

“While a number of broad themes are notable among males during their time in aftercare, peer-to-peer violence stands out most notably. In particular, high levels of both physical and emotional violence from peers are strongly notable in a majority of cases with all but one male [] indicating at least some level of emotional and/or physical violence from their peers while in aftercare. Further, respondents seem to indicate a lack of trusting relationships, in general, within the aftercare facility.”

F14Okay, some of us are probably going to have to re-read that to fully digest it. Can you hold on a minute while we see if we can understand what all that means? (Basically starting from the "resilience, stigma, filial piety and gender" bit....)

CD: [Waiting patiently.]

F14: Okay, we're back. So, basically 1) There hasn't been much research on male survivors of trafficking, and 2) your recent research shows they not only a) experience trauma while trafficked, but also b) almost all of them suffer some kind of peer-to-peer abuse afterward. And that's while they're in aftercare facilities? Not even counting after that.

That's so, so sad. It's like we feel a double sadness cross referenced with a bit of confusion. It all seems really complicated...

Part of Freedom Fortnight is helping people find specific aspects of trafficking they can focus on and make a difference. Can you tell us why Chab Dai has chosen this one?

CD: Little research has been done and is available on male survivors. This makes this publication of great importance for us as we begin to see what issues boys and men face.

F14: Right on! So in an area / with a group of people who may be underserved or "under-understood" If someone wants to dig even deeper, can they access the research?

CD: The full paper and other Butterfly papers can be found at

F14We're glad you are working on something that seems a little above our heads at the moment. Maybe we've been watching too many cat video's on the ol' YouTube for our own good.

For the less "reasearchly" inclined, we know of another organisation, Dalit Freedom Network, which has "an award-winning, Oscar-nominated short feature film" called Kavi, that shows the story of a boy growing up in India.

"Kavi gives an insight into the reality of life for millions of Dalit children in bonded labour in India today." (Watch the 2 min. trailer)

F14Kavi reminds us a bit of what is portrayed in the film Slumdog Millionaire.

Question: Is Slumdog a fairly accurate representation of some of the dynamics at play in the trafficking of boys?

CD: Is it accurate? In some senses yes. Keep in mind, in India child slavery for begging may be minor compared to familial bondage and debt slavery. India is it’s own world entirely so it is not possible to generalize the country of 1.2 billion. 

F14: What about Cambodia then?

CD: As far as Cambodia goes, many young boys are trafficked to Bangkok or Vietnam to be beggars. It’s sad, but the many pleading eyes of children that come up to you in the streets are often trafficked there.

One interesting, yet sad, piece gleaned from our research is the fact that people think young girls are vulnerable on the streets but boys aren’t because they are men. That cultural norm means most girls go out in groups and return home early to be safe. Boys are often left on their own begging or selling things at night leading to many cases of exploitation, whether it be sexual exploitation or general abuse. This is something we want to highlight this year as we try to shift the lens of trafficking from simply focusing on helpless young girls to the realities that all are equally vulnerable. Boys, Girls, Men and Women.

Here's an excerpt from that study which is entitled “On the Border”

"Children crossing the border for work into Thailand were found to have increased risk to various forms of violence, including arrest and detention.  Children working on either side of the border cite high rates of physical, sexual, and emotional violence often perpetrated by a range of actors including: police, peers, adults, strangers and gang members.  Sexual violence on the streets was cited by more than one-fourth of respondents and was nearly four times more prevalent among males in comparison to females.  Despite this, neither males nor females seemed to perceive sexual violence as a danger for males.  Drug use was also found to be a significant issue among street-involved boys in Poipet and were found to have a significant correlation with negative impacts on health, physical violence, sexual violence, and education. Drug use was also associated with higher experiences of physical violence."

F14: We couldn't agree more! All are vulnerable: Boys, Girls, Men and Women. Vulnerable and invaluable, we like to say.

CDAs you can see, the issues of trafficking are very complex. Another great film to watch would be the recent film Lion. It shows how even seeking adoption in a foreign country can be contributing to human trafficking.

And then there’s the LGBTQ community… it may be the most vulnerable of all. But that’s a whole other conversation.

F14Maybe for Freedom Fortnight 2018...?

Perhaps you could join us again next year? In the meantime,


F14: Do you have an initiative/or project you’re working on this year that people could get involved with/help with/support?

CD: This year Chab Dai in collaboration with STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia will be hosting a joint Anti-Trafficking Conference in November. We are very excited as this will be our first time hosting a regional conference to foster collaboration.

F14: Aha, we know a little about collaboration from our conversation with Freedom Collaborative during the first half of Freedom Fortnight. 

Why are you fostering it?

CD: Chab Dai & STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia coalitions believe that businesses, unions, government, academia and NGOs really need to work together, because only together can we end this crime and change the lives of so many powerless people. It’s a shared responsibility and it takes multi-sector collaboration.

(To learn more about the conference you can visit

F14: Collaboration is so important and the conference sounds amazing. We'd love to be there!

Chab Dai, thanks for "joining hands" with us this Freedom Fortnight!


What's Your Type?: Look further into a specific aspect of human trafficking, such as of male victims/survivors or risk factors of LGBTQ community.

What's Your Type?: Visit Polaris Project's Typology of Modern Slavery.

Watch the trailer for Lion now. Then invite some people over to watch Lion, Kavi, Slumdog Millionaire and have a chat about human trafficking. Watch the 2 minute trailer here.