‘Poverty porn’ and ‘pity charity’ the dark underbelly of a Cambodia orphanage

In Adoption Trafficking, Excerpts, Rights by Admin

South-East Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media, 

Phnom Penh: She looks dirty, dishevelled and miserable and is labelled a sex worker.

Many Australians responded to a plea to save the pretty Cambodian girl called Pisey from child predators. “Teach a sex worker to sew,” declares a glossy internet advertisement for Sunrise Cambodia, an Australian charity that has raised millions of dollars each year for Cambodia’s orphanages.

“Your donation of $500 will get Pisey off the street and into the sewing room with the skills to start her own micro-business,” it says. But Pisey is not her real name and she is not a sex worker.

Her portrayal in a campaign that has raised more than $200,000 in Australia in five weeks has prompted a firestorm of criticism in Cambodia and raised new questions about “poverty porn” and “pity charity”, the practices where charities use hard-hitting images, such as malnourished children, to draw empathy and donations.
“Pisey” is a village girl whom Sunrise Cambodia paid to be the poster-girl for its latest fund raising campaign, which critics say is unethical. A photograph portraying her as a sex worker will remain on the internet and in the public domain forever, critics say. So too will photographs of a boy with the fake name “Soksan”, who is portrayed as a “trafficked kid” and a vulnerable-looking girl named “Srey Mai”, who is supposed to be a “homeless teen.”

By giving $500, donors are told, they can help give sex workers a second chance, keep Cambodia’s youth out of trafficker’s grasp and teach homeless “teens to cook like a world-class chef”.But more than 20 NGOs and individuals have told Sunrise Cambodia’s board of directors the images of children in the campaign and accompanying captions are degrading, exploitative, sensationalised and do not represent children in a dignified manner.

They wrote in a letter that it is highly concerning that an organisation with a focus on child protection has demonstrated such a blatant disregard for the children’s best interests in their marketing and fundraising campaign.

Leigh Mathews, an Australian child protection specialist, told Fairfax Media that Sunrise Cambodia should immediately remove the campaign from its website and issue a statement of apology.

Images from Sunrise Cambodia's charity campaign in question. Photo: Supplied

Images from Sunrise Cambodia’s charity campaign in question. Photo: Supplied

By giving $500, donors are told, they can help give sex workers a second chance, keep Cambodia’s youth out of trafficker’s grasp and teach homeless “teens to cook like a world-class chef”.But more than 20 NGOs and individuals have told Sunrise Cambodia’s board of directors the images of children in the campaign and accompanying captions are degrading, exploitative, sensationalised and do not represent children in a dignified manner.

They wrote in a letter that it is highly concerning that an organisation with a focus on child protection has demonstrated such a blatant disregard for the children’s best interests in their marketing and fundraising campaign.

Leigh Mathews, an Australian child protection specialist, told Fairfax Media that Sunrise Cambodia should immediately remove the campaign from its website and issue a statement of apology.

For the rest of the article go to the source: ‘Poverty Pron’ and ‘pity charity’ the dark underbelly of a Cambodia orphanage.

Featured photo: Geraldine Cox, left, and Lucy Perry with children at Sunrise Cambodia’s orphanage on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Photo: Lindsay Murdoch
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