Travel to the heart of Cambodia: fighting for women’s dignity

Travel to the heart of Cambodia: fighting for women’s dignity
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combat pour la dignité des femmes
Nowadays, it’s pretty easy to see how many inequalities exist all over the world– especially in the developing countries.

Even if you’ve not traveled that much you can tell that life is unfair: millions of people don’t have their basic needs covered, suffering from all kinds of lacks.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people who are willing to give a helping hand and care about the most vulnerable populations, no matter where they’re from, providing them with all the dignity we all deserve to have. We travel to the heart of Cambodia to prove so.

ACTED is committed to multiple challenges like offering immediate humanitarian relief to people in urgent needs, as well as creating long term opportunities for sustainable growth that fulfills people’s potential- which is on what we are focusing today.

In order to give bit of a background before diving into the actual interview, I have talked to Lea Richards- technical coordinator for the European Union funded project, Workers Sabay, based in Cambodia, that fights for labour rights for hospitality workers.

Cutting to the chase, this is what Lea told me about their commitment in the work they do in Cambodia to protect workers rights and provide gender equity:

Can you describe the organization in one sentence to our readers?

ACTED in an international NGO working across 35 countries, whose work is built around the belief that everyone deserves to live in dignity and this can be achieved by investing in people’s potential.


Taking into account that you work in different areas regarding humanitarian activities, such as education, economic development or cultural promotion (among others), how do you choose any new project? Any specific criteria?

We aim to support the most vulnerable and hardest to reach communities as well as people in a country such as those affected by conflict, natural disaster, or socio-economic hardship. This varies country to country.

For instance, in Cambodia, the organisation took over the activities of Pharmaciens sans Frontieres (PSF) in 2009 and started working with many entertainment workers (women working in karaoke bars, beer gardens and restaurants) who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace, with a high risk of contracting AIDS.

531de4dfe732b-min.jpegSource: Emlii


I imagine that implementing that many projects must be very demanding for all the people working at ACTED. What are the main common factors you have to follow up on when developing every project? 


Each country develops their own projects, with our headquarters support and guidance. Therefore, our actions are classified into three pillars:

  • Responding to emergencies and building disaster resilience.
  • Co-constructing effective governance.
  • Promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.

Projects are developed within this framework, which includes using certain common indicators. However, projects are tailored to country specific contexts and needs.


Regarding the specific work you carry out in Cambodia to protect workers and specially women, how do you manage to increase awareness on those subjects amongst a population that’s so young and sparsely educated?

We work directly with entertainment and hospitality workers in Cambodia by conducting outreach sessions at their workplace, counting on projects like Workers Sabay (regarding their rights and responsibilities) and Voices Against Violence, to prevent them from SGBV (Sexual and Gender-Based Violence) in the work environment.

This enables women and men to discuss their issues in a safe space and ask the questions they wish to ask. We also use Facebook as a means of communications, which is the most used social media platform in Cambodia; this is where they get most of their information.


One of your main action fields is promoting gender equality and protecting women from sexual gender-based violence, due to their vulnerability when working as hostesses and waitresses in tourism industry. What steps do you have to follow in order to ensure their autonomy and prevent discrimination or isolation? 


Women working in the entertainment sector are highly stigmatised for doing so. By bringing female entertainment workers (peer educators) to conduct outreach sessions to other workers, we have managed to create a small community, in which women feel empowered.

This also enables us to make sure women feel safe; they can share their experience if they wish, and ask questions. At the end of each outreach session, all of the women say “ I am a woman who has value!” in unison.

cam-photo-women-1-800x533-min.jpgSource: Cambodia Daily


How do you select volunteers? What are the criteria/conditions you keep in mind to accept them?


ACTED hires interns, international staff, national staff, and more recently, volunteers under the European Union volunteers.

After a successful internship, interns have the opportunity to join our teams around the world. Generally speaking, I would say we usually look for open-minded, creative candidates, who show autonomy in their work and have expertise in one or more aspects of development.


How do you make sure that, after finishing a project, the people you helped keep working in a safe environment and that their rights are still being protected?

In Cambodia, we try to achieve this in different ways. The peer educator approach used for Voices Against Violence enables women to retain the information and skills they have learnt, so they can keep raising awareness on other women to protect themselves from SGBV.

By triggering long term, sustainable change in business practices in Cambodia, even once the project comes to an end, workers will still benefit from favourable working conditions in the businesses we have worked with.

Since you’ve reached the end of the interview, let me make you think about something: We’re all aware of what’s going on around the world, we get that things are not equal for everybody and that there are some especially vulnerable population who are suffering from all kinds of unfair situations.

Well, we may not be there with them to help out right now, but there are other ways. I think that in the end, we’re all connected at some point and if it’s possible for us to support certain causes through humanitarian organizations that really care about people, no matter the ethnicity, religion or colour, it’s our responsibility to be a part of the solution. Wouldn’t you want your neighbors to do the same if something similar was happening to you?

Although you might come from France, Ecuador or India (that’s not the point), we’re all humans, we share just one SOUL, so let’s make the world a better place by living out of compassion, love and a caring feeling for one another. It will really make a difference in you way of seeing things, as well as in the lives of the people you’re reaching out.


Source: News Deeply 


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