It has now been a full year since the first project of the SI President’s Appeal 2021 – 2023, ‘Opening Doors to a Bright Future’, launched in Cambodia. Working in partnership with the Cambodia Community Dream Organisation (CCDO), and focusing specifically on ‘Education and Learning throughout the life course’, this Appeal project has delivered many tangible benefits to the lives of women and girls across three districts in Cambodia: Prasat Bakong, Angkor Thom, and Banteay Srei.
Twelve months ago, the programme set out to provide education to women and girls in a safe, supportive, and stimulating environment, specifically improving their access to information, as well as the educational resources and services necessary to make positive life choices. In doing so, the project activities, including mentor assisted personal development training, as well as advocacy and awareness raising events, have empowered women and girls to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, whilst also breaking down barriers to learning and participation faced by women, girls, and members of the broader community.
This partnership has seen many great achievements, both meeting and exceeding the initial project targets; for instance, whilst it was initially agreed in early 2022 that the CCDO would aim to involve 2000 women and girls in the project activities, as of now, an incredible 2814 women and girls have been reached as part of the programme!
Furthermore, the CCDO has reported that the project has majorly impacted the perception of women and girls across the three districts, where they are more actively understood as active and capable members of the community, with the power to make positive and productive decisions for the benefit of themselves and others.
The delivery of Small-Medium Enterprise (SME) training in particular has been recognised as a key contributing factor for this, with a massive 836 women and girls now managing or assisting the operation of new local businesses – a sustainable development which will serve to inspire more widespread and similar involvement of women and girls in community activities.
>>> Training and Development Sessions
A central part of the project activities has included the delivery of training and development sessions, designed to build the knowledge and skills of women and girls participating in the project. In addition to the SME training, which has played an important role in strengthening the local political economy through the introduction of new income generating opportunities, the CCDO have also offered training on Healthcare, Gender Equality, and Personal Development.
In collaboration with local authorities, village chiefs, and the village health support groups (VHSG), the project team have delivered 120 sessions on topics such as family planning, reproductive health, personal hygiene and sanitation, nutrition, as well as physical and mental health; these sessions have proved widely popular, with 1769 marginalised women and girls participating from across the target communities.
Furthermore, the project team have worked closely with authorities and stakeholders across the three districts to eliminate gender discrimination. They have conducted 180 training sessions to promote a gender informed approach toward education, decision-making, as well as economic and social participation, with all 2814 women and girls involved in the project having participated in this training at some point within the last year.
It is a good trend for Cambodia to promote women in leadership at every level. Aside from the training offered by the CCDO, the women and girls involved throughout the project have been encouraged to raise their voices and express their concerns, empowering them at each step to participate more fully in family decision-making and community leadership.
>>> Advocacy and Spreading Awareness
For the first year of operations, the advocacy and awareness raising activities undertaken by the CCDO have been recognised as one of the most useful elements of the programme – contributing highly to the empowerment and self-sufficiency of women and girls across the three districts.
To spread awareness and advocate for the needs of women and girls, the project team discussed and shared the problems and issues faced by beneficiaries within the local areas, as well as how best to raise awareness of the supporting services available to them. A Team of “SMART” Women has been established to assist and support the women in many issues that affect their day to day lives.
The issues raised have included domestic violence, child abuse, divorce cases, land disputes, and economic crises related to lack of income; by way of a resolution, the project team conducted home visits with 135 women to offer consultation and help them to fully understand what kinds of support are available to them free of charge.
Similarly, media and social campaigns have played a significant role in raising awareness on the issues faced by women and girls in Cambodia. By playing recorded information over a loudspeaker, passing from village to village on a tuk-tuk, the project team were able to ensure their messages reached as many people as possible – approximately 19051 beneficiaries, even beyond the many training sessions held in the community!
These efforts have been further consolidated by the advertisement and delivery of opportunities for service providers and community members to feedback to one another – most notably, through 17 public seminars, as well as community forums. These sessions have recognised the contributions of women leaders from local government departments, health centre chiefs, village chiefs, and village health support groups, among others, whilst serving as an important activity to improve the quality of public services through direct discussion.
We are incredibly pleased with the impact and achievements realised through our collaboration with the CCDO thus far, many of which have far exceeded the initial targets when the project first started. Importantly, the project team have worked hard to bring about a change in attitudes and behaviour concerning the role of women and girls across the target communities – breaking down barriers to learning and participation, as well as empowering women and girls to develop the self-confidence and self-esteem necessary to make their own positive life choices.
As the project enters its second year of operations, we hope to see this momentum sustained, with the accomplishments of Opening Doors to a Bright Future and the CCDO’s work in Cambodia serving as a stable foundation upon which lasting change can be secured.