We are a non-profit dedicated to ensuring the education, health and safety of at-risk women and children in the developing world.
Nearly all of Lotus Outreach’s initiatives in Asia work to expand access to education, with a particular focus on women and girls. From literacy classes for sex workers up to university scholarships, to directly supporting teachers or exposing corrupt education officials, our education work is transforming not only our target communities, but the fates of countless generations to come.
Trafficking is inextricably linked to poverty in the developing world; for that reason, Lotus Outreach considers all of its programs to be preventative in nature. Our work to reduce violence against women (VAW) focuses on preventing abuse and exploitation before they occur. For those who are survivors of violence, we have programs that provide trauma therapy, social services and economic empowerment.
We invest heavily in initiatives that improve earning potential and livelihood for individuals, families and communities. Through the provision of skills training, small business grants, and the establishment of community-led savings and loan groups we ensure communities can ultimately meet their own needs, such as food, healthcare and education, without continued dependence on development and relief organizations.
Mewat, Haryana, is largely populated by the Muslim Meo tribe whose misfortunes clash sharply with more affluent surrounding areas. With a female literacy rate of only 36%, Mewat ranks among the most regressive districts in terms of girls’ education in all of India. The scarcity of schools combined with conservative local attitudes toward female mobility has terrible consequences for an adolescent girl in Mewat: if there is no school in her village, she is forced to drop out. The immediate resource gap occurs in the form of transportation as few villages have schools. Because allowing a girl to travel alone is widely believed to be imprudent, female education typically ends at the primary level, and with girls being forced into marriage at the age of 14.
The Blossom Bus bridges the chasm between parents’ legitimate concerns for their daughters’ safety and a girl’s right to education.
By providing families with vehicles chauffeured by trustworthy drivers to safely deliver their daughters to secondary school and college, the program helps delay the traditional Meo institution of childhood marriage and early childbearing. Giving these girls the chance to develop a sense of autonomy before motherhood increases their capacity for social participation and leadership. The program currently transports 300 girls to secondary school and 15 young women to college. Until proper secondary schools and colleges become available in all villages, the Blossom Bus aims to rescue girls at this transitional stage, leading the way in establishing female education as a norm rather than an anomaly.
Partner: White Lotus Charitable Trust
Supported by: Impact Giving • Guru Krupa Foundation • GlobalGiving Foundation
Cambodian girls are disproportionately at-risk of being denied a primary education by virtue of some seemingly intractable reasons. In Cambodia, primary school is free but it is not compulsory. The unofficial costs of education such as supplies, transportation added with the demands for additional payment by teachers frequently make it impossible for Cambodian families to afford their children's schooling - girls generally being the first withdrawn. Because of widespread poverty, many children are taken out of school by their families and put to work. Although the income generated by their children helps ease immediate economic hardship, the longer term consequences are often devastating: it is a recognized fact that low levels of education make these children much more likely to be trafficked or fall victim to the brutal commercial sex trade.
With these facts in mind, Lotus Outreach is supporting the education of more than 600 girls in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Banteay.
We provide scholarships to girls who are at-risk or survivors of violence in order to keep them enrolled in school and attending through the third year of high school, and further if possible. These scholarships not only cover the indirect costs of education such as materials, uniforms, and transportation, but also ensure the poorest families have enough rice to eat so the girls will not be taken out of school and put back to work. In addition, some of the girls qualify for residential placement in protective housing. GATE also features a community-based participatory process of building Child Protection Networks. Through engaging community volunteers and building culturally-relevant prevention programs, GATE is able to further stem the tide of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Partner: Cambodian Women's Crisis Center
Supported by: The Material World Charitable Foundation • Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation • Angus Lawson Memorial Trust • Buddhist Global Relief • Lotus Outreach Society Canada • Lotus Outreach United Kingdom • Lotus Outreach Australia
In 2010, Lotus Outreach International celebrated our first graduating class from the Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) program. Of our 62 graduates from GATE in Banteay Meanchey, an astonishing 70% of them were accepted into tertiary education programs, primarily at the university level. This unprecedented and groundbreaking outcome led to the establishment of CATALYST – the GATE Women and Youth Scholarship Fund. The CATALYST program carries on the fledgling tradition of GATE in order to see through our long-term investment and help rebuild the intellectual class that was completely decimated by the Khmer Rouge only a short generation ago.
It is a tragedy that less than 2% of women in Cambodia possess education beyond high school, and Lotus Outreach is deeply committed to reversing that statistic.
Since 2010, six groups of GATE graduates have joined the CATALYST program. In 2013, we celebrated the first class of CATALYST college graduates. For the past three years we have watched over 200 young women finish their tertiary studies. Nearly all of the graduates find employment in areas related to their degree.
A full scholarship (covering tuition, food, residence, utilities, additional class fees, and daily allowance) costs approximately $1,200 per girl, per year.
Partner: Lotus Outreach Cambodia • Cambodian Women's Crisis Center
Supported by: Buddhist Global Relief • Lotus Outreach Society Canada • GlobalGiving Foundation
Even compared with other developing nations, Cambodia lags in the realm of girls’ education: whereas 43 percent of girls in the developing world attend secondary school, only 11 percent of Cambodian girls do. In the communities where Lotus Outreach operates, the road to school is long and full of hazards. By supplying all-terrain bicycles to the poorest girls living a minimum of one mile from their nearest public school, Lotus Pedals has become a powerful component to our education programs.
The young women in our Girls’ Access to Education and Integrated Rural Development programs are among the most dispossessed on the planet. They are undervalued and discriminated against by their society and prime targets for abuse and sex trafficking. All too often, these girls are forced to choose between eating and paying for a taxi to attend classes. For many, their time is better spent working than traveling several kilometers to school on foot.
Given a bicycle, these tough decisions disappear. Lotus Pedals has already changed the lives of hundreds of girls by supplying safe, reliable transportation. By staying in school, their achievements far exceed those of formal lessons: they gain confidence, access to academic communities and the respect of their families and neighbors.
Many children in destitute areas share rides, boosting the reach of the program. A few hundred bicycles result in many more deserving girls in classrooms across Cambodia. Moreover, Lotus Pedals beneficiaries tend to view the new avenues available to them as leading back to their home communities: they are charting a course to become doctors, teachers, and non-profit leaders in their own villages.
Partners: Lotus Outreach Cambodia • Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC) • Khemara • Cambodian Organization for Children and Development (COCD) • Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE)
Supported by: Impact Giving • GlobalGiving Foundation
In Cambodia, an old adage enjoys popular currency. "Women are like cloth and men are like gold," it claims, meaning that once cloth is soiled, it ought to be thrown away for it cannot be cleaned. Tragically, this chauvinistic attitude still reigns, hovering oppressively over the hopes and dreams of an entire nation’s female population. Domestic violence is perhaps the most common consequence of this toxic ideology, afflicting approximately one in four women—the vast majority of whom have nowhere to turn.
Women are perceived as commodities, and not all commodities are equal: sex with young women and girls is believed to boost virility and health, placing the most vulnerable first in line for mistreatment at the hands of traffickers, neighbors, teachers, brothers and fathers. A young survivor of rape will often find her trauma compounded by the actions of her family. Virginity is highly prized in a bride, and parents will sometimes resolve the problem of an unchaste, unmarried daughter by demanding that the rapist marry the girl himself.
The LO-supported counseling and reintegration project provides a safe haven for survivors of violence. Guaranteed physical protection and emotional support provide patients the sanctuary needed for recovery. At our shelter in Sisophon, near the Thai border, they are welcome to stay for up to one year, during which time they have access to individual and group counseling, literacy courses, vocational training, life skills classes, legal services and reintegration assistance. Women are encouraged to retake control of their lives - to shed their sense shame and see themselves as survivors, rather than victims.
Partner: Cambodian Women's Crisis Center
Supported by: Dining for Women • GlobalGiving Foundation
If graduates can’t fund tertiary training or university themselves, they are less likely to secure meaningful, well paid jobs, settling instead for menial underpaid work, which sadly can lead to them becoming vulnerable to trafficking once more. Thus this program was created to provide orientation and linkages to ensure further skills training, employment & education opportunities for GATE girls once they have graduated from high school whether at grade 12 or earlier. Often they go into programs such as:
These terms describe two streams available in a two-year Internet Technology training course. We are providing GATE graduates in partnership with the provider, Passerelles Numerique, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The outcome is 100% employment in high paying jobs in the industry. There are currently 8 girls in the training course.
Besides leading to high paying job outcomes for our students, the most important aspect of the GATE and STREAM programs is our ‘hands on approach’. In other words, Lotus Outreach International staff members have annual and semi-annual meetings with the schools’ governing bodies, community, parents, teachers and students. By doing so, we continue to raise awareness in thousands of individuals in Banteay Meanchey and the rest of the country regarding the importance of education, especially for girls.