Monthly Archives: October 2010

Agricultural Visit to Angkor

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yesterday, Monday 25th October, me and my team went on an agricultural research trip to Siem Reap. For the past few months, I have been looking into supporting women farmers in my own consistuency, Battambang Province. Some very successful NGOs have offered to help me, including CADF and the Agricultural Development Denmark Asia (ADDA), both based in Siem Reap. The latter focuses on women farmers empowerment in 3 Cambodian provinces (Siem Reap, Bantey Meanchey, and Battambang), with the support of the EU and WB notably. We met with some of their representatives to discuss their model and work with local women, as well as to discuss directly with some of the women involved (visiting their farms and community groups).

After this trip, we will work on developing our own system in Battambang, following local women’s needs and desires, as well as market demand and supply there, but using some of the tools already successfully put in place by ADDA notably.

Building Relationships in Battambang

Mu Sochua with Global Fund for Women volunteers

Women's Wing, Battambang

Dancing to Traditional Khmer Song

European Parliament Resolution on Cambodia

Brussels, 21st October 2010 – European Parliament resolution on Cambodia, in particular the case of Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua

Read the full articles here.

European Parliament


A. whereas a worrying authoritarian trend has been noticeable in Cambodia over the last few years; whereas this is reflected in a deterioration in the human rights situation, the stifling of fundamental freedoms, a brutal policy of land-grabbing that affects essentially the poor, the suppression of all forms of criticism and protest, the persecution of the parliamentary opposition and civil society activists, the use of the courts for political ends and a drift toward a one-party system,

E.  whereas the strategy of Cambodia’s ruling party is to use a politically subservient judiciary to crack down on all government critics,

F.  whereas an alarmingly high number of people are being held in detention in Cambodia owing to various shortcomings in the criminal justice system, and whereas there is still no guarantee of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary,

G. whereas, according to human rights NGOs, the government has used the courts to silence criticism of its responses to land-grabbing, corruption and border disputes,

1.  Condemns all politically motivated sentences against representatives of the opposition and NGOs, in particular the sentences of 23 September 2010, 13 October and 27 January 2010 against Sam Rainsy, as well as that of 30 August 2010 against Leang Sokchoeun and those against Mu Sochua and the journalist Hang Chakra;

12. Calls for an emergency humanitarian plan to be put in place, with EU involvement and UN coordination, to assist the Cambodians who have been hardest hit by the crisis, in particular those working in the textile and construction industries who have lost their jobs;


The debate that preceded the adoption of the Resolution can be viewed at the following link (in English and 22 other European languages)

Update on Lem Nath’s Case

Many prominent NGOs based in Phnom Penh continue to follow this case. Before Pchum Ben Day various organizations met with the villagers who have a very strong commitment to help Mrs. Lem Nath, and even stronger after outside assistance stepped in.

Even though they have been threatened and bribed by the authorities, they still stand with Lem Nath. We continue to push for support for Lem Nath, Cambodian justice, and will help our collaborators to find further evidence.

Tuon Mon, Leap Torng Village, Trea Commune, Stong District, Kampong Thom Province

This photo is of Tuon Mon. The litigator against Lem Nath claims that she forged Tuon Mon’s thumb print. However, Tuon Mon explains that she agreed to sign and that more than anything she wants Lem Nath to return home.

Lem Nath is still imprisoned. The court case continues. I will post more information as it becomes known.

SEVEN Staged in Delhi on the Closing Day of Vital Voices of Asia Summit

We were so thrilled this evening to bring an incredible three-day summit to a close with the staging of our documentary play, SEVEN, featuring seven acclaimed Indian actresses. Shabana Azmi, celebrated actress and women’s advocate, championed our Delhi production, taking it upon herself to engage fellow actresses in the staging after being moved by the SEVEN script depicting the real life stories of remarkable heroines in the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network.

A packed audience of summit delegates and international guests was in attendance for the first production of SEVEN in Asia. Featured actresses included: Shabana Azmi in the role of Inez McCormack;Urmila Matondkar in the role of Farida Azizi; Tannishtha Chatterjee in the role of Hafsat Abiola; Mahira Kakkar in the role of Mukhtar Mai; Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal in the role of Anabela de Leon; Tanvi Azmi in the role of Marina Pisklakova-Parker; and Jayati Bhatia in the role of Mu Sochua.

After what was one of the most moving productions of SEVEN to date, our summit moderator, Zain Verjee, welcomed the performing actresses to the stage once more for a brief question and answer session. Cambodian parliamentarian and long-time Vital Voices Global Leadership Network member Mu Sochua, one of the seven women portrayed in the documentary play, joined Zain and the actresses on stage alongside Vital Voices Vice President for Human Rights, Cindy Dyer.

Sochua said that the theatrical depiction of women’s stories of tragedy and triumph never fails to move her:

“Each time I see SEVEN, I hold my breath. I still cry.”

Shabana Azmi commented on both her involvement in the production as an women’s activist, and her experience as an actress:

“It’s hugely inspiring. What we did is surrender totally to the lives of these extraordinary women. All we could do is try to communicate their stories. It was a tribute, and a very humbling experience.”

Cindy Dyer recognized the sponsoring partners for the evening, the Avon Foundation for Women, and appealed to delegates to make use of a domestic violence toolkit produced by Vital Voices in collaboration with Avon; the toolkit includes strategic methods for advocacy, such as staging a reading of SEVEN to highlight the tremendous struggle and achievement of these remarkable women.

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Third plenary session: Overcoming the Obstacles to Equality, Development and Peace

The third plenary session of our summit focused largely on assessing women’s  role in politics, titled Overcoming the Obstacles to Equality, Development and Peace: A Global Roundtable to Commemorate the 15th Anniversary of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women. Summit moderator Zain Verjee asked panelists to share their personal experience of overcoming barriers — social, structural, cultural and governmental.

In Cambodia, parliamentarian and Vital Voices Global Leadership Network member Mu Sochua has contested bias and paved the way for women’s rights in a recovering post-genocide society that’s often indifferent or ill equipped to address women’s needs:

“The word ‘gender’ cannot be translated in Khmer, because it doesn’t exist. So, we say ‘gender’.”

Sochua urged that women “not shy away from politics,” because every issue that affects women’s daily lives is in some way a political issue. Governor of Uttarakhand state in India and former Vital Voices Global Leadership Award honoree, Margaret Alva, echoed Sochua’s call for women’s engagement in the political realm.

In her 30 years of political activism, Margaret says that she has seen women make considerable strides and now sees a shift materializing in India, owing largely to the adoption of a quota reserving seats for women in the Panchayat, or local bodies of governance.

There are currently one million politically active women engaged at the grassroots level in India, says Margaret, but their one-year term limit ought to be reexamined to ensure that they have the opportunity to have a lasting impact. Women also need to reach out to male counterparts in politics, forming coalitions and networks of support to bolster their campaigns for change and increase chances of success by acting as a collective.

“I believe that women today are creating their own constituency in the grassroots. Women are entering politics with ease now, but survival — you cannot survive purely on women’s constitutes. You have to be part of your party. There are not men’s issues and women’s issues, there are social issues that have to be looked at together, men and women.”

Ambassador Sally Shelton-Colby echoed Margaret’s appeal for collaborative efforts, advocating for the employment of unified bodies for action on global issues affecting women. Sally appealed to delegates convened to join in the Breakthrough Initiative, a project of Vital Voices’ multi-partner La Pietra Coalition to Advance Women and the World. Members of the Breakthrough Initiative include two Nobel Laureates, Muhammad Yunus and Amartya Sen.

Panelist Barbara Cooperman of LexisNexis spoke about the Rule of Law Index project, which pursues an integrated approach to strengthening societies through judicial reform, finding that this has ripple effects in social and economic spheres. Research compiled for the Index examines the practical effects of legislation in the daily lives of women and men.

Patricia Sarenas of the Philippines, deputy director of the Mindanao Commission on Women, shared the success she has found in engaging judges and chief justices in the drafting of laws; Patricia said that it’s critical to involve the judiciary arm of government in the writing of laws, since they are the members who will be implementing the laws.

CEO of The Garden of Hope Foundation in Taiwan, Hui-Jung Chi said that we can shift perceptions and move forward cultural practices that would seek to limit women through innovative campaigns that engage new audiences, especially youth. When launching a campaign for legislation on child sex trafficking in her home country, Chi and members of her foundation organized a flash mob of 50,000 people in central Tai Pei, which garnered critical awareness and increased political pressure just before the bill was up for consideration. The legislation was passed, and Chi says of the experience:

“This campaign might be an example of how a social movement can become a legal reality.”

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Mu Sochua and over 60 women and men attended La Pietra Coalition to advance women and the world, in Florence-Italy, from 9-11 October, 2010.

The members who come from different sectors in different regions discussed their common goals of making investments in women as smart investments.

Discussions were based on the Economic Intellligence Unit that recently released a report on the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index. Four main topics were discussed in four task forces: 1/ Labor policy and practice; 2/ Access to finance; 3/ Education and training; 4/Legal status.

Mayor Renzy also known as “the Italian Obama” for his young and dynamic leadership hosted a Town Hall Forum attended by his citizens who came to raise more questions about advancement of women and girls globally and in Italy specifically.

Mu Sochua put the emphasis on the social, economic and political context under which women and girls are developing and by appealing for a global action to help break the silence and provide safety and access to justice by opening her address with ” the absence of war does not the mean the presence of rights and safety for women and girls if society continues to condone gender based-violence and if equal opportunities are not present for all”.