Today is International Women’s Day—a day when women around the world are celebrated, their impact recognized, and their God-given potential affirmed. Today, we envision bolder, brighter futures for the world’s women.
There are more than 3.5 billion women and girls in the world today. Women with hopes and dreams for their future. Women who are deserving of agency and opportunity. At World Relief, we are proud to be a part of the movement to create a better world for these strong women.
To commemorate women everywhere, we asked World Relief women working both in the U.S. and abroad to share their perspective on women in their nation. Here, they discuss the challenges they face, the opportunities they have, the potential they carry to shape culture and society and, finally, the hope they have in advancing issues of gender justice in their respective countries. We are excited to share their voices with you all month long in a series from the field.
A Q&A from World Relief’s Female Staff Around the World
Part I : Cambodia
Today we are talking with women from World Relief Cambodia—Sivan Oun, Health Nutrition Program Director and Romroth Chuon, Program Operations Director.
What is the biggest challenge women are facing today?
SIVAN: Women in Cambodia work hard both at work and in the house to raise children and also earn an income to support their families. As a mother, I get up to work early in the morning to clean the house, prepare food for my family and get my children ready for school. I am also the house manager—managing the daily budget to be used more effectively, making sure there is enough food and ensuring my family’s needs are met. Today, more and more women in Cambodia need to work outside their villages, leaving young children in the hands of caretakers, often grandmothers, who are unable to provide constant supervision. On top of trying to do all this, most women have limited parenting skills due to a lack of examples in their own lives.
ROMROTH: I think the biggest challenge women in Cambodia face today is domestic violence in all its forms—physical, sexual, financial and emotional. Most women are unable to get the support they need in these circumstance, leaving many feeling devalued. In rural communities, in particular, women are left out of any decision making. The underlying influence on the treatment of women and the place they hold in society is men’s perception—that women are a weak person and therefore given no power. Many men believe women can’t do anything.
How do you see the influence of women shaping culture/society?
SIVAN: I see the influence of women more now because they are beginning to get involved in community development. The rate of women attending school is on the rise and more are earning good jobs which increases their status in society. In Cambodia, women are the primary caregivers to family. And since more and more women are becoming stronger, they are shaping the future and the potential for equality in society.
ROMROTH: In Cambodian society and culture, there is a proverb that says, “A woman is like white cotton. If she falls on ground and gets dirty, she is not needed anymore” But right now, I can see the empowerment of women because more are participating in society and more women are able to explore their potential. There are some women who even have a role in government sectors. Another aspect is that men are learning more about gender equality and some are even starting to support women in the housework.
How is your office empowering/providing opportunity for women?
SIVAN: In the Health and Nutrition project, there are three trained women on the health field staff. 99% of 280 the volunteers in the 26 Care Groups are women, while only 1% are men. The focus of this project is to teach health, nutrition and early childhood development lessons that these volunteers can then take back to their communities to educate other women in order to raise healthy families.
ROMROTH: About 80% of participants in our programs are women. So it is a really great opportunity for us to empower women to reach their potential. We run programs in:
Human trafficking prevention and protection training, where community leaders build awareness and give support to protect women and children from trafficking.
Savings and Business Development training, where we seek to teach women about financial management and how to use their resources wisely. Many women build leadership skills in this program as they lead other savings groups and empower other women.
Child Development trainings, where female volunteers are trained to raise their children and other children in their village to be holistically healthy children– spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally. Child development is a great place for women to build their skills, confidence and self-esteem.
What are you most hopeful about for the future of women?
SIVAN: I’m most hopeful that in the future women will attend school or literacy programs, learn a skill and work toward a career. But also that they would gain awareness, knowledge and understanding about raising children and building a strong family.
ROMROTH: I do hope women will have a better future and continue to stand firm in who they are. I am hopeful women will get equal rights in families and communities. I am hopeful women will support each other and build peace. I am hopeful women will learn how to manage their family finances well and develop their leadership skills. And I am hopeful women will have a voice and stand up to advocate against all forms of domestic violence.
Dana North serves as the Marketing Lead at World Relief. With a background in graphic design and advertising and experiences in community development and transformation, Dana seeks to use the power of words and action to help create a better world. Dana is especially passionate about seeking justice for women and girls around the world.