Cambodia women leadership

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Posted by: | Posted on: February 27, 2016

Women’s Leadership: A Case Study From Cambodia

Women’s Leadership: A Case Study From Cambodia

Meeting with community leaders (February 2011)

torkimsy_19In a rural commune situated along the Mekong river in Kratie province, a group of women with a strong motivation to work for other women`s emancipation come together and decided to engage in activities that could inspire women and offer them new roles and opportunities. They established a network of women volunteers and with the support of a NGO they started small projects to encourage women’s self-confidence and capacities, and help them stepping out of tradition and engage in new roles. When decentralisation made available to women new positions at village and commune level, these women were able to assume these roles; they become leaders within community organisations and in the 2007 commune council elections one of them gained the position of chair of the commune council.

For this reason their experience offered a great opportunity to learn more about the best strategies that women can employ to gain representation in local politics and to analyse what changes such representation can produce among community in terms of gender equality.  The research process initiated by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with these women started in 2008 and lasted until 2011.

The small group of committed women has centred their capacity building on women’s self-esteem, pursued through specific activities to overcome gender based discrimination and the feeling of being inadequate and incapable that result from it. Little by little other community women have been able to assume new tasks in social organisations, like fishery committees or health volunteers’ networks, or in formal political positions when these become available. The initial group of women grew into a critical mass of women active at various levels within their community.

The leaders` group have gone through a process of reshaping gender roles that has involved their personal sphere and their family’s relations, and has required patience and capacities. By being able to promote changes within their families, convincing husbands to accept wives’ public roles and act consequently, they have obtained the esteem of the community’s women, and have proved that gender roles can be re-negotiated peacefully and with mutual advantages. Their example provides them recognition as trustable leaders by women and men.

During this process, they have been confronted with crises, in particular when community’s access to resources such as forest or water sources, was endangered.  In that occasions they took side with the community and engage on the side of the people in a series of initiatives to protect resources and rights.  As a result community people acknowledged them as correct and accountable leaders, not corrupt and willing to act and stand up on the side of the people, even when integrated into the mainstream of formal politics.  Noticeably, the women leaders have diverse political affiliations, but this has never impeded them to work together.

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