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.
They 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.
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