Cufa, with support from the British Embassy in Phnom Penh, has been running a project with the specific focus of strengthening Cambodian women’s voices and encouraging participation within communities.
The project, Women Empowerment and Engagement in Democracy, has been formed through our Credit Union Development project and extensive experience working in rural Cambodia has assisted us in the project’s implementation. It has been delivered across 21 villages in four provinces and measures the participation rates of women in organisations such as credit unions and village committees. The results have seen a higher participation rate and deeper engagement for women within communities. This will enable women to gain skills in areas such as public speaking and create a platform for networking, both within and across rural communities.
The project covers four key topic areas:
- Benefits of community engagement
- Confidence building
- Public speaking
- Women’s networking forums
Romam Ki (pictured right) is a 25-year-old farmer living in the Ratanakiri Province in rural Cambodia with her husband and three children. Cufa spoke with her recently about her experiences in the project so far!
“I was incredibly excited upon hearing that this project was being implemented in my community! I am very appreciative of this female empowerment project and I have been able to learn, along with others in my community, how women’s rights work in a democracy.”
Initially, Romam was extremely scared of public speaking and even writing in a public meeting. She did not feel comfortable in environments of more than 10 people. However, after participating in the project she had an unexpected change in attitude.
Her family told her, “You are a woman, you should stay at home to take care of your family.” Additionally, her husband also asked, “What benefit did you get from the project? How much money will you make? Why are you participating?”
Romam continued to tell people “I want to change my life and build my confidence. From this project, I can learn about the realities of life and develop my opinions and attitudes.”
After participating in various meetings and training with Cufa she began to learn and she highlighted capacity development as an area that she enjoyed, helping her increase her ability, be brave, confident and build experience. She was able to share her knowledge and experience as well. She began to understand more about the problems of women in her community and how to solve them.
One day Romam was selected by the local authority to be a female activist in her community.
“This made me very happy as I was selected for such a position and the project has helped me empower my life.”
She had to say of her involvement, “I would like to thank Cufa Cambodia and the UK Embassy in Phnom Penh for starting this project in my community. I am extremely happy to be increasing my confidence and ability to share knowledge within the community. I hope Cufa will continue to support the community and other women who have not participated in the project.”
As we reported on last month, earlier in the year Cufa hosted some staff members from Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB), one of our biggest supporters, to participate in a study trip. The trip comprised of activities that varied from cultural and historical activities to visiting our projects and meeting some of the participants whose lives have been changed for the better.
The trip was action-packed and started off by learning about some of the history of Cambodia with visits to the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng (Genocide Museum). Once there was a general understanding of the need for Cufa’s work, Cufa staff showed them around some of the projects. These included the Children’s Financial Literacy program where they were able to see classes, a Credit Union Development savings bank visit and seeing a Village Entrepreneur’s business.
The latter days were more hands-on as TMB staff were able to interact with the kids of the Children’s Financial Literacy program, discuss financial concepts and products in the village banks or just listen to some of the amazing stories.
Like all amazing trips, it had to come to an end eventually and all of the Cufa staff involved were grateful to have been able to host the group.
We caught up with some of the TMB staff and this is what they had to say of their time in Cambodia…
Jade Coleman - Business Relationship Manager
"I really wanted to see firsthand how Teachers Mutual Bank’s funds donated to Cufa help and benefit people’s lives in poor communities. Often you hear about it but to see it in real life is a wonderful opportunity and I was so grateful to have been selected by my employer."
Trent Bennett – Systems Accountant
"Because of my accounting background, I found the Credit Union Development project the most fascinating. I was really inspired by the encounters I had with the savings bank staff and volunteers and the follow-up conversations with Cufa staff afterwards. I was impressed by the slow-burn efforts of Cufa in villages to communicate and educate villagers about a radical new concept - placing your savings into the custody of a bank. I’d forgotten how radical that concept is. I was inspired by Cufa’s conviction and the part that these customer-owned savings banks have to play in ending poverty. How audacious to believe that the fortunes of Cambodia and its people can be shaped, one savings account at a time! But it’s begun, and I see signs that it’s working. For me, that was so very inspiring."
Joyce Tuioti – Supervisor - Credit Control
"Cambodia was more beautiful then I had expected. I loved meeting the people and visiting the schools. The tours were very informative and very emotional, but I loved it. The Village Entrepreneur program was the most interesting for me because it showed that people require assistance through sponsorship and donations which makes a real difference in people’s lives. We were happy to see their village in practice and appreciated what they shared with us, things like the pottery, vegetable farms, shops etc."
A unique new episode had been released this week in the Conversations in Development podcast series. The podcast was started by Cufa to discuss a diverse range of topics within the development field such as advocacy, child labour, voluntourism and many more. The series has had a range of expert guests and the next episode features Clare Brown, a human rights lawyer who currently works as the Legal Program Manager at Legal Action Worldwide (LAW).
The episode, Women, Violence and the Law, was released on Monday 24 June as Clare discusses a range of issues facing women in countries like Somalia and Lebanon with the podcasts usual host, Dr Peter Mason.
The regions surrounding Somalia and Lebanon have some of the lowest rates of gender equality in the world. Peter speaks with Clare about her experiences working in the region. They discuss the lived experience, many of the issues that women face and triggers of sexual-based violence, as well as exploring the current climate for legal advocacy work and the overall progress that has been made in these countries.
Clare Brown is an international human rights lawyer and currently works as the Legal Program Manager at Legal Action Worldwide (LAW). Clare has been in this position for almost six years after working as a legal intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Her work sees her based between Kenya and Somalia with travel to South Sudan and Lebanon, developing and implementing creative legal interventions to address human rights violations with a focus on sexual violence and violations committed by security forces.
Catch up by listening to the previous episode, Advocacy and Health, available on Apple Podcasts or your favourite podcast app. Women, Violence and the Law is streaming now!
Earlier this year Cufa hosted staff from one of our biggest supporters, Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB), over in Cambodia to participate in a study tour. The tour comprised of four days full of activities that varied from cultural and historical activities to visiting our projects and learning about some of the participant's amazing stories.
The trip began with learning about the dark history of Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng (Genocide Museum). This helped everyone gather a greater level of understanding of how Cambodia’s development as a country has been shaped and the need for Cufa’s work. Following a break and lunch, everyone dived straight in with visits to a variety of Cufa’s projects such as the Children’s Financial Literacy classes, a Credit Union Development savings bank visits and seeing a Village Entrepreneur’s business.
The approach from the second and third day was much more hands-on with the TMB team able to get involved in a variety of activities whether it was explaining basic financial concepts, playing traditional games with students or learning how to craft pots with local business owners.
The final day saw the trip winding down before flying back to Australia the following day and included visits to local communities and sites that have been assisted by former Cufa projects. It gave everyone an opportunity to see how Cufa operates and visit some staff.
Every night was accompanied by a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, a cultural experience in itself.
Two of our Cufa staff members that accompanied the group throughout the tour were project coordinators Sreyneang Pok and Tola Chhorn. They thoroughly enjoyed hosting staff from TMB and had this to say of the trip.
“I enjoyed showing our guests the Children’s Financial Literacy and Village Entrepreneur programs and as most of our guests had banking backgrounds, the objectives of these two programs is very aligned with their expertise. The Children’s Financial Literacy kids are always very interested to learn about the saving habits of Australian kids and how they save. I feel like the guests could learn a lot from the kids and Village Entrepreneur families.” - Sreyneang Pok, Project Coordinator Cufa
“Our guests were very interested in the project activities, they were great listeners, asked many questions and got involved with many of the activities in the community. They were kind enough to share their experiences and skills with local people in the community and we had time to exchange many stories.” – Tola Chhorn, Project Coordinator Cufa
From everyone at Cufa, thank you to the TMB team for being such amazing guests!
If you would like to organise something similar with your workplace please contact us at email@example.com
Stay tuned next month to see what some of the TMB staff thought of the study tour!
The Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) program was established by Cufa in 2012 as a response to families being left vulnerable by the Cambodian government’s decision to rehabilitate a disused railway track where they had been living. Recently, this program has reached its completion, providing us with an excellent opportunity to reflect upon our work over the years in developing communities.
Funded by the Asian Development Bank, SRIRI is one of our most comprehensive and diverse programs. It provides broad-ranging support for families to restart their lives across five resettlement sites, whilst also ensuring the community as a whole is safe, secure and sustainable. The project operations are threefold, exercising each of Cufa’s specialties–employment, education, and economic institutions.
The first stage of the program is the Vocational Placement Strategy (VPS). It addresses employment and vocational training. Participants were assisted by being placed in jobs that matched their skillsets. Individuals were also provided debt relief, loans, and counselling and groups were taught life skills, financial literacy, CV writing and interview skills.
The second stage of SRIRI establishes Self Help Groups (SHG). These provide training and support in financial concepts. Resettlement sites are also linked to economic institutions that encourage participants to begin saving for the future.
The third stage is the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) project which is operated by volunteers in the community to look after the cleanliness and sustainability of the local environment. They are trained by Cufa on how to adequately monitor and repair key elements of the community such as the water supply, drainage, waste management, roads and vegetation.
The overarching goal of SRIRI is to provide displaced community members with all the important tools so they can live sustainably and have improved livelihoods in their new communities.
The program achieved some amazing results from across all five of the sites where it operated. Household incomes were increased, communities were provided a quality education and the O&M project made the communities more liveable. Thousands of people, especially women, were educated in financial literacy, vocational training was provided across the sites imparting crucial skills for people to get jobs and livelihood groups were developed as people got into business. All in all, Cufa has been extremely happy with the development of these communities and with the knowledge that at the culmination of the program these communities will be able to continue to develop and grow.
Cufa reported on many success stories throughout the program. Some of these included:
Sok was a participant who became interested in cleaning up her community after suffering from many issues around her house due to a lack of rubbish disposal causing flooding. She became an inspirational figure in her community encouraging others to do the same.
Torn was able to benefit from the VPS program by getting a new job at a local guesthouse. He excelled in his position and shortly afterwards earned himself a promotion.
A new episode has been released in the Conversations in Development podcast series. The podcast has explored a range of issues from the development field such as voluntourism, urbanisation and faith-related work. The latest episode welcomes Amelia Christie, CEO of RESULTS Australia, to discuss advocacy work and the effect it has on the field of health.
The episode, Advocacy and Health, was released on Monday 27 May and Amelia appears alongside Cufa CEO and podcast host, Dr Peter Mason.
Advocacy has the capacity to have an impact on a massive scale and in the field of health, it can save millions of lives. We speak with Amelia Christie about the power of a grassroots approach and dealing with everyone from volunteers to politicians. We also delve into foreign aid and the growing focus on the Pacific and Amelia teaches a thing or two about tuberculosis and its growing prevalence in our closest neighbour Papua New Guinea.
Amelia Christie is the CEO of RESULTS, an advocacy organisation that informs political decisions by empowering everyday voices to bring an end to poverty. RESULTS trains, supports and inspires volunteers to become skilled advocates and is a partner of ACTION, a global partnership of advocacy organisations working to influence policy and mobilise resources to fight diseases of poverty and achieve equitable access to health. Amelia has also worked with Ministers of Parliament and for both small and large NGOs. She is passionate about human rights and using people power to bring about positive change.
Get up-to-date by listening to Episode 11, Cambodia to Cabramatta: A refugee journey before catching up with the latest episode. Simply search “Conversations in Development” into Apple Podcasts or your favourite streaming service. Episode 12, Advocacy and Health, streaming from Monday 27 May 2019.