Taipei, Mar. 1 (CNA) A Taiwanese group dedicated to fighting human trafficking and sexual abuse has established a women's shelter in Cambodia, a country known for commercial sex exploitation, one of the organization's executives said at the launch ceremony Tuesday.
The Pleroma Home for Girls in Phnom Penh will serve as both a shelter and school for girls under 18 and offer sex trafficking victims counseling and career training, said Lily Lee, the project manager and a board member of the Taipei-based Garden of Hope Foundation's branch in New York.
Citing a study done in 2007, Lee said an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 women -- 80 percent of whom are under 18 -- are involved in the sex trafficking trade in Cambodia, a problem that required attention.
"Most girls are involved in the sex business because of poverty, and statistics show that 31 percent of the girls are illiterate, " the project manager said, highlighting education as an important means to finding a solution.
"The situation in Cambodia is like that in Taiwan 20 years ago when women's rights were trampled on and overlooked, " said Chi Hui-jung, the foundation's chief executive officer.
The foundation, which is dedicated to helping victims of the sex industry, sexual abuse, and family violence, has accumulated a wealth of experience in helping female victims in its 23 years, Chi said, and was willing to transfer the knowledge to help the women of Cambodia.
The Pleroma Home, run by staff members trained by the foundation, is expected to take in 10 to 15 girls in the near future.
The long-term goal would be to establish a local girls' school, Lee added.
Though Cambodia has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the government is working closely with local NGOs to promote international exchanges, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), which is funding the transnational shelter project.
A representative of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) who was present at the ceremony applauded the foundation's effort in battling sexual exploitation and called for everyone to act against it.
The U.S.-based Chinese Christian Herald Crusades and Fullness in Christ Fellowship in the United States are also participating in the project.
(By Nancy Liu)