Monthly Archives: March 2011

Illegal Detention of Workers in Phnom Penh- More Information

The following photos show Ms. Heng Hak at the Kossamak Hospital, who jumped off the 3rd floor of the T&P recruitment agency. She is visited daily to make sure that T&P company does not move her out as they had planned to do so last week. I continue to speak with T&P to stop their plan of removing her,  and to continue cooperating with the hospital. However, none of her family members are allowed to see her at this point.

Read more about our investigation with T&P Recruitment agency here.

Heng Hak- who jumped from the 3rd floor to escape T&P Recruitment Agency

Heng Hok- Survived the jump, but broke her ankle and heel.

Heng Hak- Kossamak Hospital

Heng Hak- Kossamak Hospital

Heng Hak- Kossamak Hospital

Heng Hak- Kossamak Hospital

Heng Hak- Kossamak Hospital

Illegal Detention of Workers in Phnom Penh- Day Two

The following day we returned with Srun Channa’s mother in order to negotiate her release. It was only with the assistance of the city prosecutor, that on March 11th, Channa was released.

Negotiations with criminal police and prosecutor

Despite our requests, no officials from the Labour of Ministry were present over the two days we visited. We can conclude that the Labour Ministry leaves it up to the companies to draw guidelines and that inspections of the premises and the application of the laws are very weak and that negligence from the part of the government led to the deaths and injuries of the women.

Mother of woman rescued from employment agency

Srun Channa being released

With the collaboration of the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), and our local networks, we investigated the cases of the four trainees who were supposed to have been released by the company. They were in fact detained inside the company when we visited.

I will post our findings soon! Please follow along and share your thoughts. Have you heard of similar cases like T&P that detain their employees illegally?

Illegal Detention of Workers in Phnom Penh- Day One

On Sunday, March 6, Sing Sina, a 35 year-old woman died at T&P Recruitment Agency from a heart attack, according to the police. However, locals remain skeptical. Since then, more and more women have come forward asking for help to be released from T&P, a recruitment agency that trains women to work in Malaysia.

Women are being detained illegally. Children are not allowed to see their mothers. And two weeks after Sina’s death, another woman leapt from the third floor of the T&P building to try and escape, breaking her ankle and heel.

Outside T&P Recruitment Agency

Hearing this news, I joined other SRP members on Thursday, March 10, to Sen Sok district in Phnom Penh to begin investigating T&P recruitment agency where 23 year-old Srun Chan Nang, a maid trainee was being held against her will.

Speaking with the families outside T&P employment agency training center

We were granted permission to speak with about 100 of the trainees at T&P, after being informed that the military police had already interviewed five women who are requesting help to leave. Thirty trainees share a 4mx6m room, on three floors. Under-aged trainees are kept in a separate room on the 3rd floor. Many of these companies prey on women in rural areas who are unaware of their rights.

Being denied entrance inside training center

Without her mother present, they denied her release. Local authorities and police ignored the law that forbids detention against one’s will. Furthermore, local authorities accepted the company’s practice of debts and the charges for food, lodging and extra fees.

Mu Sochua interviewed and assured detained trainee of immediate release and reunification with her family

We were told to return the following day. Read more on Day Two here.

Q&A with Mu Sochua- AsiaLIFE Magazine

A leading activist for gender equality in Cambodia, Mu Sochua explains what keeps her fighting to Mai Lynn Miller Nguyen.

AsiaLIFE Magazine

Mu Sochua is a mother of three daughters, a current member of parliament, and a former cabinet minister. Born to a Cambodian-Chinese family, she was sent to study in France during the war and instability of the early 1970s. She earned a master’s degree in social work at University of California Berkeley, a centre of anti-Vietnam War protests, and went on to work in camps for Cambodian refugees along the Thai border.

In 1989, Mu achieved her dream of coming home. Ever since, she has crusaded for the protection of women’s rights in a male-dominated society, speaking out about human trafficking, exploitation of female labourers, and domestic violence. She receives worldwide recognition for her work, including the 2005 Vital Voices Human Rights Global Leadership Award presented by Hilary Clinton.

Mu joined the Sam Rainsy opposition in 2004, serving as the party’s first female secretary-general and a parliamentary representative of Kampot province. Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, she continues to walk the campaign trail, going from village to village to hear the concerns of Cambodian women and men.

What motivated you to become a voice for Cambodian women?
My mother, who had only a three-year education. I remember the time when I was eight or nine, she was still learning how to read and spell her name at the same time that she was trying to sew our New Year’s dresses. I think the centre of attention for her was to see that she could afford for her children, especially her daughters, to go to school and not have her life of low education.

What do you feel is a key issue for women at the moment? It is extremely vital that women have an education. It gives a future that is a guarantee. At least 25% of the national budget should be invested in education. An educated girl child will have a totally different view of herself, which is built on self-confidence. Without an education, that sense of opportunity, hope and belonging is not even going to have a start.

We have millions and billions of dollars invested in the development of Cambodia as a whole, but an emphasis on education and healthcare has not taken place strongly enough for women to benefit from it.

What was your focus during your six years as the first woman to lead the Ministry of Women’s and Veteran’s Affairs?
I was very much aware that people were watching for a role model. I was aware that people had hope. I was doing everything possible to make a strategy for gender equality that is inclusive, involving many men and the elites as well as the people from the grassroots level.

I seek a platform for women, a platform for all. We cannot begin development if we do not address this issue of equality, whether it is gender equality, socio-economic equality, or political equality.

When I was minister, we launched a programme of ‘women are precious gems’. Men are gold, women are precious gems. We need a society that values women as precious gems. That precious gem must be protected, not put at risk.

What are the responsibilities of female politicians in Cambodia?
For the first time in 2002, women entered politics at the local level. As minister, I pushed for the quota and said it’s okay for women to be leaders and seek power. I campaigned very widely with women, I brought the entire ministry from top to bottom, I went on bike campaign.

I really believe that women need to enter politics. We need to refrain from repeating party lines. We’re not the mouthpieces of the party; we are the mouthpieces of women in Cambodia. We need to answer to our women, we need to be responsible to our women. We cannot find any more excuses. Our women are raped everyday.

You are featured in the documentary film Redlight, which concerns sex trafficking. What are the causes for the ongoing exploitation of women in Cambodia?
When parents sell their children, it is a lack of education, it is despair. Why do the victims still respect their parents even after they’ve been sold? It’s because they know their parents didn’t have a choice.

When the choices are so narrow, and even narrower because of inflation, because there is no one to speak on their behalf, when the land is taken away from them, when children have to miss school because their families cannot pay for transportation, I think this is total injustice.

If our women have nothing but their bodies to sell in order to bring the food home, I think it is the society that needs to be judged and not let the society judge them. There needs to be a really strong message from society, a message of no to violence, no to discrimination and exploitation of our women.
Development is not progress unless it is equally shared and women can be safe from violence and exploitation.

In 2005, you were part of a group of 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the promotion of non-violence. How did you feel about the commendation?
I really think I don’t deserve it. The women who fight every day to bring food home, those should be the Nobel Prize Laureates. Those are the ones who should be given the full attention.

I am always so ashamed of myself when I read the newspaper and think, I have done pretty close to nothing. When it comes to the land issue, violence against women, sex trafficking, I ask myself everyday, how can I do it better? Everyday I look at the failure, everyday I push myself harder to ask how can I be smarter than this.

You have had the opportunity to meet many prominent female leaders, including Hilary Clinton and most recently, Aung San Suu Kyi. Who are the women who most inspire you?
The women who really inspire me are those who want to be politicians. I just came back from Battambang for training the future candidates for the local elections in 2012. Before going, I was sick, I was tired, I was depressed. When I came back two days later, my feet are kicking again.

Every time it is the same thing, I get down and then go out to the field and come back full of energy again. But I am 57 years old, I don’t have the same energy I once had. I don’t want to stay on forever. I want to be able to have young women take action for change.

International Women’s Day- SRP Headquarters

“Development is not progress until it is equally shared and not until women can be safe from violence and exploitation.” Mu Sochua, President of the Sam Rainsy Party Women’s Wing.

On March 8, 2011 the world celebrates the 100-year anniversary of International Women’s Day. Today we must honor the vital role that women play in the development of our country. It is a day for us to stand together, raise our voices and defend women’s human rights.

Women’s rights whether economic, social, cultural, civil or political—have equal status. The state is obligated to create and enforce adequate standards that recognize this equality. The Sam Rainsy Party believes that existing national policies tied with community action and the protection and recognition of the most basic human rights should align to establish a foundation for the protection of women’s rights. Gender empowerment exists through strengthening and promoting increased political participation, equal access to economic opportunities, increased access to healthcare and stronger enforcement of policies on prevention of violence against women.

Cambodia must adopt economic policy tools that embrace promotion and realization of equitable access to land, employment and equal standards of living.

The SRP strives to establish a national action plan that would incorporate existing international laws and in-country policies to end violence against women. This would include new legal reforms, monitoring systems and improved access to information. It is not only the responsibility of the State, but of the whole community to ensure the protection of women against all forms of violence.

International Women’s Day is not only a day to reflect on the progress that has been made around the world, but to recognize all the work that remains. The SRP Women’s Wing believes that developing women’s leadership is essential in order to achieve its goal that all Cambodians have access to equal economic, political and human rights – including personal security, financial independence, health care, and education.

We must ensure that enough women have support in their own lives to turn the tides of unawareness and both empower women into positions of leadership to make change, and build grassroots support for protection of women’s human rights and dignity.

Founded in 1995, The Sam Rainsy Party Women’s Wing mission is to:
1) Mobilize women on issues that are crucial to women’s lives
2) Train and prepare SRP women leaders at all levels, in particular young women running for office
3) Provide women candidates with winning positions on the SRP lists of candidates

Tête haute, droits devant

Mu Sochua, politicienne cambodgienne qui ne s’embarrasse pas des convenances, n’a qu’une idée en tête : faire progresser les droits humains et attirer plus de ses compatriotes féminines en politique. Un gros programme, mais la dame ne craint pas de se relever les manches. | par Hélène Mercier

Read the article here: Tête haute, droits devant

People to People

International Women’s Day: Today We Honor Women Working for Change.

8th March, 2011 – Posted by Carleen Pickard

Today marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, first celebrated in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland in 1911, to recognize the social, political and economic achievements of women in the past and present.

The self titled “Global hub of International Women’s Day events and information” lists thousands of events around the planet, 200 in the US alone, to celebrate and honor the achievements and struggles of women around the world.

I first felt the importance and solidarity of celebrating International Women’s Day while visiting Afghanistan with my mother on a Women Making Change Global Exchange Reality Tour in 2005. For 10 days we traveled in and around Kabul, visiting schools for girls, women’s organizations, women’s small business cooperatives and councils, doctors active in female health educations, advocacy organizations and government agencies working to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan after the Taliban rule.

At that time in Afghanistan, there was a feeling of hope and genuine sense that progress was being among those we met with. It was a truly unique experience to share International Women’s Day with incredible mothers, daughters, grandmothers, leaders and heroines. Stories of enormous personal tragedy were shared with emotion and outrage, but often with a sense of courage and struggle within the movement for global women’s rights. It was also an incredible gift to share this experience with a woman who inspires me every day, my mother.

Annually at Global Exchange, we celebrate the achievements of international and domestic human rights leaders and honor those effecting social justice in the world at a Human Rights Awards event. Today, as we prepare for the 2011 Human Rights Awards on June 1, we reflect on some past women honorees:

  • Mu Sochua MP, a Parliamentarian of the opposition party Sam Rainsy Party, Sochua has fought tirelessly for human rights and women’s rights in Cambodia.
  • Samina Faheem Sundas, who founded American Muslim Voice in response to the fear and hatred expressed toward Muslims in the wake of 9/11.
  • Alice Walker- Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, poet, teacher and activist, is internationally acclaimed for her vivid depictions of black women’s struggles against sexism, racism and poverty.
  • Cindy Sheehan and Gold Star Families for Peace– Channeling their grief into action, Cindy Sheehan and Gold Star Families for Peace have galvanized the anti-war movement, demanding answers from Bush about the legitimacy of the war.
  • Diane Wilson – Texas shrimper who founded unReasonable Women and has fought for peace and environmental justice
  • Kathy Kelly – Founder of Voices in the Wilderness, which sought to end the Iraq embargo and save Iraqi children.
  • Arundhati Roy – Author and outspoken peace activist from India.
  • Barbara Lee – Courageous congresswoman who voted against the war in Afghanistan.
  • Bianca Jagger – Long time peace activist who travels widely to shine a light on unjust conditions.
  • Claudia Smith – Founder of California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, she is a tireless advocate for immigrants at the border between the US and Mexico
  • Digna Ochoa y Placido -– was a human rights attorney who gave her life defending peasant farmers in Mexico.