Domestic Violence is not seen as a crime
Domestic violence is still widespread but in the minds of most villagers it is not a crime but a drop of rain falling from the sky. This was one out of many issues discussed during a workshop of 120 community members most of them local woman leaders in Kratie province last month. The workshop participants agreed that the acceptance of domestic violence and a lack of awareness of its criminal nature as well as the adverse effects on women, families and the entire society make it so important for women groups to continue information sharing and discussions on this topic. The workshop was organized by the Khmer Association for Development of Countryside (KAFDOC) a long-time partner of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
Over the course of two days, active women on the community level, especially indigenous women, used the chance to share their experiences, discuss challenges and plan together for the upcoming year activities. Everyone listened attentively when participants representing their communes talked about threats from criminal groups and the lack of cooperation from local authorities as the main challenges when disseminating information to villagers on laws related to fishery, land concessions, domestic violence, and the conservation of forests and lakes. For this year, women groups decided to cooperate closer with experts and local authorities to strengthen their own capacity before reach out to villagers.
The discussions also identified four interrelated areas to focus the work of the women’s groups in 2011: fighting domestic violence, promoting maternal and child health care including free hospital services for the poorest families, enhancing women’s leadership skills, and sustainable natural resource management.
However, everyone realized that this work cannot be done by women alone. The men in the workshop –albeit being a minority – showed full support to the ideas of the women groups. Those men who work as teachers, school principals, and commune councilors appreciate women’s increasing involvement in social and political work. But women claiming leadership roles is not without friction. “As a commune chief I have many duties and responsibilities, my husband has become a house-husband…” reports a woman in the workshop. “He is not always happy about this.”