Diakonia - People change the world
Loy and two dogs Loy founded the organization Center for Girls. Here she is with her beloved dogs.

Loy is no longer afraid

Loy was only twelve years old when she was forced to stop studying and start working. “I feel I lost my childhood. That’s why I started Center for Girls when I grew up. So that no more young girls would have to experience what I did.”

Loy was born into a culture that favours men. In the village in northern Thailand where she grew up, secondary school was not considered necessary for girls – after all, they were only going to get married and have babies. So when she was twelve she was sent to look after her teacher’s children instead of continuing at school herself.

Gained a degree

But Loy was determined. Her dream was to be a social worker, and she applied to an alternative school, finished her education and set her sights on university. Without the help of her family, she eventually succeeded in gaining her degree, and at the age of 22, she founded Center for Girls, one of Diakonia’s partner organizations.

What made her life change direction in her teens was contact with the Thai Women’s Foundation, TWF. The organization carried out a survey of young people in her village. The survey showed that many girls were forced to get married at a very young age and that child labour was common. TWF needed volunteers to run a project tackling these problems and Loy was the perfect candidate. She was trained in areas such as children’s rights, vulnerability and child protection. Then she in turn trained girls and women for a two-year period.

A scar in her soul

“I’m very proud that I was able to protect young girls from being exploited. When the project ended, I felt I couldn’t stop. I had to continue helping children.”

Loy, who was 22 by this point, then founded the organization Center For Girls, CFG, with the help of a small donation from UNICEF and advice from TWF.

“It’s like a scar in my soul that I didn’t have these opportunities when I was growing up just because I was a girl. I think of myself as a twelve year-old, how I was forced to work and had no opportunity to study. I wonder where my childhood went, why I wasn’t allowed to play and be with my family,” she says, obviously upset.

“I just want no more young girls to suffer the same thing,” she continues.

Center for Girls work with education and information.

So it perhaps makes sense that CFG’s first project involved providing information, education and advice to children at risk in order to combat child exploitation.

Mainly works preventively

That was twenty years ago and since then, CFG has grown from having one employee (Loy herself) to having more than ten employees and about twenty volunteers who together have helped almost 10 000 people to avoid exploitation and abuse. The organization mainly works preventively and its work is supported by Diakonia through the Women for Change project, which focuses on strengthening women and their rights.

“When I was young I dreamed of being a social worker but I wasn’t able to become one. But now when I look back at my life, I feel that I have achieved my dream anyway and that I was meant to become a leader. Now I will continue to help young girls. I feel strong, I’m not afraid of anything,” says Loy.