Stirring the Waters

Women in Church and Society (WICAS) Asian Regional Consultation
17-22 April 2006 Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Keeping track of our discussions and meetings, and keeping others in the LWF Youth Consultation up-to-date.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

FEATURE: I Have Learnt About My Human Rights

LWF/DWS Cambodia Empowers Communities in Self-Sustainable Development

The first thing you notice about Chea Phan is the right sleeve of his shirt hanging empty at his side. His arm was severed just below the shoulder during the civil war. His wife's disability is not so obvious. She walks with a minor limp. It is not until Saw Pheap points downward to the parched earth that you notice the plastic mould where her left foot used to be.

Phan and Pheap live in Kauk, a dry, dusty village of about 270 people in poverty-stricken Oral District in the Province of Kampong Speu, Cambodia. The couple and their eight children sleep in a very small bare hut, propped up by one-meter-long stilts of roughly hewn timber. The family cooks and eats outside, around a big cooking pot hanging over an open fire. Kauk is only 98 kilometers from Cambodia's bustling capital, Phnom Penh. But it could be a world away. They have no such luxuries as furniture or electricity, not even a regular, reliable water supply. Villagers struggle to produce enough food for their families, especially now that the drought is in its third year. For Phan and Pheap it is an endless fight, working long hours in stifling heat, and fetching water from the village well for their vegetable crops. More…

Over 25 Years of Service in Cambodia

The LWF's involvement in Cambodia began in 1979, as part of an effort by a consortium of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to respond to the devastation caused by the Khmer Rouge regime. From 1975 until 1979, under Pol Pot's leadership, the Khmer Rouge killed from 1.5 to 2.3 million people out of a population of some 8 million. The regime targeted Buddhist monks, Western-educated people, and others who appeared to be "intellectuals," for example, people who wore glasses, or who spoke foreign languages, "non-laborers" identified by their soft hands, people with disabilities, or people from ethnic minorities, such as Laotians and Vietnamese. More…

A Deep Well - A Glimmer of Hope

Ven Samy, 37, is physically weaker than most of the men in her community, but she possesses another kind of power. When asked to identify who their leader was, about 15 villagers pointed to Samy. They had good reason. She works hard organizing women's meetings, three days a week, in each of the five villages in her district. She conducts a human rights' advocacy program, organizes the local community banking system and trains women in dress-making - all with the assistance of the LWF Cambodia program.

Samy belongs to the Suoy ethnic minority group in the village of Kaor Dauntey in the commune of Sangkei Satop. Her simple hut has a wooden floor. Its roof and walls are made of entwined palm fronds. With fellow villagers, she suffers from the effects of the three-year drought, which is exacerbated by illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming, and the widespread harvesting of forest trees for charcoal production.

She struggles to educate her people about their human rights and how to live a life of dignity. This earns her respect and close relationships with the women’s groups in the community, but not with the political leaders. "We are now becoming more aware of our rights as humans, unlike before," Samy says. "However, the authorities are not happy about this. They fear that if we are empowered we will fight against them." More…

Further information about LWF/DWS work in Cambodia on the LWF Web site.

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