Location: Banteay Srei’s Safe House, Battambang province
Summary: Maly Sun, the Safe House Team Leader at Banteay Srei, uses advocacy to improve the situation for survivors of gender-based violence.
“I always raise issues with the authorities. I am not afraid to speak out. I am not afraid because if I do good things, good things will happen” Maly Sun, team leader of Banteay Srei’s Safe House in Battambang says.
Maly began working for Banteay Srei in 2008 as a project co-ordinator and has since become the Safe House team leader. Maly’s role involves connecting with local partners, facilitating support for clients, building good relationships with local authorities and supporting staff in the stress and difficulties they face conducting counselling with survivors of gender-based violence.
In addition to her core responsibilities at the centre, Maly plays a very vocal part in the fight against gender-based violence, actively advocating on behalf of her clients with local authorities and regularly appearing on local radio stations as a guest speaker. “My style of advocacy involves talking – always talking to try to solve problems. If I cannot solve by talking, I call a radio or newspaper” Maly explains.
In August 2012, a five-year-old rape survivor was brought to the Safe House. Maly immediately took the girl to the hospital but the staff turned her away and told her that there were no doctors available as it was a weekend. “The staff were rude to me, telling me I needed a request letter, and the doctor told me this was a social problem and he could not help. I called the Director of the hospital to complain, and the staff were angry at me for calling him, saying it was not a serious problem” Maly explains. Maly called the local radio station who immediately aired the story. Shortly after, the provincial hospital of Battambang announced that they had changed their policy, and they would see survivors of violence on weekends and public holidays.
This significant change in hospital policy was due to Maly’s sheer determination to advocate for the rights of her clients. “Most of our clients have a low level of education and they still think women are worth less than men. They do not know about their rights and opportunities. When I see the young girls who come to the Safe House I always think about my daughter and am sad and angry that things are so unequal in Cambodia” Maly says. Between July 2011 and June 2012, the centre supported 60 rape survivors, of which 51 were under the age of 18.
Maly is now using her skills and experience to help Banteay Srei’s newly established Peace Shelter in Siem Reap to develop good relationships with the local authorities. In many ways, Maly is the epitome of the type of female leadership that Banteay Srei promotes. When asked whether or not she is afraid to voice her opinion with the authorities, Maly replies confidently “I am not afraid. I am strong enough to talk with them”.