Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Loans to fight LGBT poverty

Loans to fight LGBT poverty

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community watch performances at last year’s Pride Week in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district. Charlotte Pert

Loans to fight LGBT poverty

LGBT Cambodians driven into poverty by discrimination, and sometimes forced to sell sex to survive, may soon enjoy the benefits of a new online campaign designed to raise money to help them rebuild their lives.

Micro Rainbow International, a non-profit organisation aimed at lifting LGBT Cambodians out of poverty, unveiled a new crowd-sourcing platform on Saturday that will allow donors from all over the globe to directly support individuals in the form of interest-free loans.

The organisation targets vulnerable LGBT people in Cambodia by running workshops at events such as Gay Pride in Phnom Penh, which allows it to connect with members of the community who have come to the capital from the provinces.

Phally, 27, originally from Kandal, said in an interview yesterday how he had found himself homeless and jobless on the streets of the capital after his family threw him out because he was gay.

“I didn’t want to leave home, but I had no choice, because my family members didn’t help me anymore or love me when they found out about me,” said Phally, who only wished to be identified by his given name. “I miss home so much and want to have all my family around me.”

Phally struggled to find work once he had to fend for himself, and claims this was partly because discrimination at school caused him to stop education early.

“The teachers treated me differently than the other children, and I felt they looked down on me because I was gay,” he said. “It made me not want to study,”

The predicament Phally found himself in is all too common according to Kong Yara, executive director of CamASEAN, the anti-discrimination NGO that coordinates Micro Rainbow’s operation in Cambodia.

“When parents find out their son or daughter is LGBT, they often simply kick them out of the family home,” he said. “But it is just as common for families to lock their LGBT children in a room in the house, like prisoners, and take away their phone and other means of communicating, because they are afraid they will make contact with other LGBT people.”

Discrimination is especially bad in rural areas, according to Yara.

“One family in the provinces sent their gay daughter to a Kru Khmer [a traditional healer] who beat her to drive out what he believed to be an evil spirit,” he said.

Thanks to an interest-free loan from Micro Rainbow, Phally has now found a place to live and is making a living selling papayas at a Phnom Penh market.

But the handful of people the micro-finance organisation is helping are just the tip of the iceberg, according to Nuon Sidara, sexual orientation and gender identity coordinator at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR).

“Poverty amongst LGBT people is a significant problem in Cambodia because education and employment is still not open equally to people because of their sexuality and gender identity,” he said. “LGBT people often become homeless as a result, and are forced to sell sex, especially transgender women, because they are poor and have no food.”

Sidara said more progress was needed, but welcomed Micro Rainbow’s initiative as “a first step towards achieving equality”.

Additional reporting by Sen David

MOST VIEWED

  • PM orders immediate action against ‘sexy’ live streamers

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered immediate action against women who live stream their sales pitches on Facebook wearing revealing clothing. The prime minister said the practice erodes traditional Cambodian values and disgraces women. Hun Sen gave the order to officials attending the Cambodian

  • Trump tweets praise for Kingdom docking ship

    Cambodia continues to earn praise for its humanitarian act of allowing the MS Westerdam cruise ship with more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board to dock at the Preah Sihanouk port. The praise this time comes from none other than US President Donald Trump. “Thank

  • Tourist area greenlit in Sihanoukville

    The National Committee for Coastal Management and Development will coordinate with relevant ministries over the establishment of a billion-dollar tourist area named Neak Reach in Preah Sihanouk province after it was proposed by the Ministry of Tourism. The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and

  • Organic vegetable retailer unveils QR code scheme for origin source

    Organic vegetable retailer Natural Agriculture Village has introduced QR codes on its product packaging, which will allow consumers to see where their produce comes from. Natural Agriculture Village president Bun Sieng, who is also a member of local distributor Green Gold, told The Post on

  • Mine kills military officer along border in Preah Vihear province

    A military officer died on Friday after he stepped on a landmine in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district, near the Thai border. Chin Hat, a 45-year-old warrant officer, died instantly as a result of the explosion. He was attached to the K-398 unit

  • Remaining MS Westerdam passengers test negative

    Tests conducted on the remaining 781 passengers of the MS Westerdam for Covid-19 came back negative, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Wednesday. It also noted that the last 233 passengers to disembark the MS Westerdam are now in Phnom Penh after they were transported there in