Banteay Srei at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

By international volunteer Melanie Sheehan, Capacity Development Advisor for Banteay Srei

On 21st May 2013, the Director of Banteay Srei, Ms Sok Panha, will take part in a workshop organised by UN Women for NGOs and Government representatives, where she will share her experience of attending the 57th meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, and help them prepare for the 58th CSW in 2014.

Ms Sok attended the meeting in New York in March 2013 as a representative of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation with a network of 180 members representing groups of diverse women from 25 countries.  The network believes that the development framework of the past 30 years has magnified inequalities and disproportionately disadvantaged women in Asia Pacific, and aims to empower those women to use law as an instrument of change and promote their human rights.  Its current campaign asks for four goals to be included in a new development framework to reduce inequalities:  1. Access and Control over land and resources; 2. Decent work and Living wages; 3. Peace and Justice; and 4. Voice.

Ms Sok Panha presenting at the 57th CSW

Ms Sok Panha presenting at the 57th CSW

At the meeting in New York, Ms Sok gave a presentation on “Women’s Access to Land and Resources in Cambodia” at an event entitled “Development Justice: Transforming Development Frameworks to Address the Structural Causes of Inequality”.  Her presentation compared the political commitment previously given to ensuring women’s access to, and control over, land and resources, with the current reality, where women comprise 50% of the population but own only 13.2% of agricultural land, and experience frequent violence and land rights abuses.

Read the full Powerpoint presentation here:  Women access to land and resources

“Les reporteurs solidaires” visit Banteay Srei

By international volunteer Melanie Sheehan, Capacity Development Advisor for Banteay Srei

On 23rd April 2013, Banteay Srei in Siem Reap hosted a visit from Fabienne et Thibault, two journalists from France known as “Les reporteurs solidaires” who have travelled around South-East Asia reporting on issues of social exclusion and visiting grass-roots NGOs to see how they tackle it. So far, they have visited projects in India, Bangladesh and Vietnam, and they chose Banteay Srei as the organisation they wanted to see in Cambodia.  They were particularly interested in our work around domestic violence, and how we involve the local community in all our projects, as they had seen a similar project in India and wanted to compare approaches.

With this in mind, we arranged for them to visit our Peace Center, where both perpetrators and victim survivors can receive counselling and education about domestic violence and the law, and it is the perpetrator who can stay overnight if necessary.

Peace CenterThey met Tan Senara, Center Co-ordinator (on left), who talked about the success of the project, but also highlighted some challenges: “There are not enough lawyers in our partner organisations to cope with the number of cases we refer.  The Center really needs its own specialists, and it would be good to provide temporary accommodation for the women as well”.

The journalists commented that Cambodia appeared to have a more democratic approach than India, where a repeat perpetrator of domestic violence is often confronted by a large group of local women, who shout and physically abuse him in public in order to draw attention to his actions and try to shame him into changing his ways …

Cambodia’s more democratic approach was also in evidence at the community meeting in Pourk district, where villagers, their Village Chief, and the Commune councillors met to build a dialogue reflecting on their performance  in local good governance.Community meeting Pourk

The meeting was facilitated by the female Commune Councillor with support from Banteay Srei staff.  Each person was given the opportunity to voice their opinion, and contribute to finding a joint solution to the main problems, which were then written into the Commune Action Plan to improve local good governance.

After the meeting, the journalists met with female Commune Councillor, Em Samoeurn, who has represented women and children in her district for over 10 years.  Samoeurn works closely with Banteay Srei to support victim survivors of domestic violence, and shares the philosophical view of many involved in the work:  “It’s true that we see more cases of domestic violence today.  It’s alarming, but it means that at least those suffering from violence today are not hiding it”.

Read an English translation of the full articles written by “les reporteurs solidaires” here: The Citadel of Women and Reconciling the victims and perpetrators of domestic violence