Mu Sochua believes, “Development is not progress till it is equally shared and not till women can be safe from violence and exploitation.”
MP Mu Sochua campaigns widely to defend the human rights of women through the adoption and full implementation of legislation against gender-based violence. Currently, Mu Sochua is directly battling gender-based discrimination in her own case, against Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen. (For a brief history click here) Further, for more than 25 years now, her work has focused particularly on the following issues:
Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children
There were 468 rape cases identified by the Cambodian police between November 2008 and November 2009, out of which 78% concerned minors under 18 years old. Many of these victims were also victims of incest, torture, gang rape and murder. In at least 34 of these cases, victims were raped and then brutally killed. Of 677 rape cases reported to NGOs in 2008, 67% of victims were rapes of minors under the age of 15. Among adult victims were elderly, mentally-ill and disabled women. Financial compensation is usually the informal resolution to rape: in early 2009, out of 201 rape cases, only 32.3% were handled through the justice system, 16% were illegally settled outside of court, and 51.7% were not even taken into consideration by the authorities for legal action.
MP Mu Sochua travels continuously around the country to sensitize villagers to the danger of trafficking and sexual violence, to pursue the prosecution of traffickers through a strong network of local organizations and to lead the fight against corruption of officials.
Mu Sochua has not only been a strong advocate in her own country but also abroad. She recently participated in the production of a film-documentary on the prostitution of children and women, ‘Redlight’ (a Priority Films, 2010), and travelled to New York, USA, to attend the movie premiere and to sensitize the international community on the matter.
See following articles:
Urban and Rural Poor
Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia, with 30% of the population living below the national poverty line (of $0.45 a day) in 2007, and 68.2% of the population living on less than $2 a day. Further, on average, women still earn only $.068 for every dollar that men earn, and 58% of working women are unpaid family workers.
Young women from rural areas, with little formal education or skills training, migrate to find work in garment factories in urban centers; yet, recent massive layoffs in the garment industry notably have led many of them to find work as beer promotion girls, karaoke singers or sex workers, where they are increasingly vulnerable to physical violence.
Additionally, there is also a general lack of access to adequate health care services for the poor, especially the rural poor. For women in particular, maternal mortality rates in Cambodia are higher than any other country in the region: there are currently 472 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Cambodia, which means 5 women die in childbirth per day, and one woman dies every 5 hours. According to the World Health Organization, the major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include hemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion and obstructed labor. These are avoidable with proper care, yet only 44% of births take place with a skilled attendant, and only 22% take place in a health facility. Further, only 28% of people have access to improved sanitation and clean water.
Moreover, a gender gap still remains in enrollment and literacy rates. The literacy rate for female youth (ages 15-24) was 79% in 2008, while the literacy rate for young males was 88%. This gap is exacerbated by poverty and rural living, as the idea that education is unnecessary for women and girls still prevails in rural areas. Dropout rates also tend to be higher for girls and in rural areas.
MP Mu Sochua advocates for the rights of Cambodians to improve their living conditions and gain lease hold rights to land. She also supports the development of communities for schools, health centers, sanitation and access to employment.
See following articles:
There were at least 11,600 victims affected by land disputes in 2009. Land disputes raise particular concerns for Cambodian women. When urban communities are forcibly evicted and relocated to remote areas lacking proper sanitation, jobs and food security, female heads of household (comprising 25% of the Cambodian population) suffer. Evictions also increase women’s vulnerability to further acts of violence as they are relocated to less secure, unfamiliar areas.
MP Mu Sochua advocates for the rights of tenants in her constituency of Battambang and throughout Cambodia, investigating evictions and land-grabbing first-hand, listening to villagers’ stories and supporting formal complaints.
See following articles:
Women in Politics
As in the majority of countries around the world, women in Cambodia, have historically been largely absent from the political decision-making process. Today, Cambodia still holds a strong culture of disregard towards women’s qualifications, expecting them to subordinate themselves to men. A major breakthrough for women in overcoming barriers to their political participation started in the 1993 UN-sponsored elections. The number of women running as Members of Parliament has increased continuously at every subsequent election (in 1998 and in 2003). Cambodian women made history when their nation held the first Commune council Elections in 2002. For the first time in the history of Cambodia, people at the commune level were able to choose their local representatives. Today, 975 women are elected officials in Cambodia’s 1,621 communes, and this increasingly due to the SRP’s work.
However, women who serve in remote areas or who are not from the ruling party (the Cambodia’s People’s Party) face great exposure to physical danger, threats, political discrimination and even death. Further, Cambodian women are still regularly victims of discrimination and harassment, both emotional and physical.
As MP for the leading opposition party, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), Mu Sochua has worked tirelessly to put women at the forefront of Cambodian politics. Since its establishment in 2004, the SRP has not only battled for citizens’ freedoms, but also focused on women’s rights specifically, developing a Women’s Wing. In this, MP Mu Sochua has played a leading role and became the Wing’s President in 2009. The SRP’s Women’s Wing, with the support of the whole party, works forcefully in preparation for the next local election, with resources being mobilized to select local women to be trained for the next 2 years and to run for seats in the local commune councils. In total, the SRP aims to sponsor 1,500 women candidates. The selection of these outstanding future candidates takes Mu Sochua and her team of women to remote villages in all corners of Cambodia.
MP Mu Sochua has worked within the SRP as well as outside through civil society to push women on the political agenda. She has notably worked alongside Grassroots Women for Change (GWC), an NGO that was founded by Cambodian women politicians to build a movement of women in national and subnational politics. The organization has been working very hard to sensitize women to the need to link women’s lives to policies, and to give grassroots women a political voice and representation. In March 2010, it launched a radio program on FM 93.5, ‘Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices’ to create a platform for women to voice their concerns and advocate for their rights on issues that impact their lives.
See following article: