Location: Bavel Commune, Battambang province
Summary: Local leader and community facilitator supported by Banteay Srei is elected as Commune Council member in 2012 elections.
When Banteay Srei first came to work in Sang Rang village in 2008, Leup Lei was a housewife who rarely left her village. “I knew I wanted to improve the situation for myself and other women in my village, so I put myself forward to volunteer as a community facilitator” says Lei confidently.
As part of Banteay Srei’s grassroots rural development model, between five to seven volunteer community facilitators are selected by their communities to co-ordinate development activities such as income generation schemes and social support for gender-based violence. Community facilitators, such as Lei, receive training from Banteay Srei in leadership, management and other areas to equip them with the skills necessary to lead rural development in their villages.
Over four years since she first became involved in community action, Lei was recently elected as a member of her Commune Council, responsible for women and children. “Banteay Srei provided me with training and capacity building as a community facilitator and encouraged me to stand for election which built my confidence. So I put my name forward and stood for election in June 2012” Lei explains. With a low level of education and from a very poor family, this was a huge achievement for 42 year-old Lei. “When they announced I had been elected in front of 6000 people at the Commune Office, it was amazing. I was so happy and proud!” Lei exclaims.
One of just two women out of eleven Commune Council members, Lei believes that it is important to have women leaders in local authorities, as she explains: “Women understand women’s issues. It is difficult for a woman survivor of domestic violence to talk to a man about her complaint”.
In Lei’s role, she helps women and children in her community by, for example, providing funds for poor pregnant women to go to hospital or funds for the children of the poorest families to go to school. A role model for other women in her community, Lei also regularly gives speeches to her community on the role of women and issues around equality and domestic violence.
Lei lives in one of Banteay Srei’s ‘phase out villages’, which no longer receives direct support. However, the legacy of Banteay Srei’s support lives on in Lei’s work as a local leader, and she still receives training and capacity building support from the organisation.
Lei’s leadership goals do not stop at the Commune Council level. She now plans to stand as a district council member in the elections of July 2013. A mother of four daughters, Lei hopes that with the money she can earn as a district commune council member she will be able to send her eldest daughter, now aged 18, to university. “I hope my daughters have more opportunities, that they can get a good education, can go to university and then that they can support their own children” Lei says.
Lei describes how her horizons have changed since she became involved in local politics: “Before I was like a frog in a well, when I looked up I saw the same small bit of sky every day. Now I can see the whole sky in front of me.”