by Ek Sophanna
Less time spent on water collecting had enabled families in Samrong, a northwestern village of Siem Reap province, to gradually reflect on gender knowledge they attained and eventually rid themselves of violence.
Laughter, conversations and shared household burdens have replaced long-time tears, fears, arguments and severe mistreatment of wives physically and mentally. Their children, as a result, are the happiest and enjoying their healthiness, learning and security, while household income is improving.
“As their fellow villager, I’m also sharing the happiness with those families. Their children are going to school. We no longer hear their arguments and cries,” commune councilor Prum Savda said of ten families who have successfully freed themselves from violence trap – thanks to the interventions of Plan International Cambodia and local partner Cambodian Children Against Starvation and Violence Association (CCASVA) in close collaboration with the local authorities.
Located almost 100 kilometers from Siem Reap town, Samrong village, Klang Hai commune of Srei Snam district was not only the Khmer Rouge stronghold, but also among areas in Cambodia that received complete peace from the country’s civil war the latest – the fact that contributes to prolonging household violence and severe poverty.
According to Savda with specific role of overseeing the welfare of children and women, let alone limited income generation means, public services as basic as access to safe water point were near to none a decade ago. Ponds, streams and hand-dug unprotected wells were the community’s common water sources. While husbands and men are typically not supposed to get involved in fetching water or housework, wives and small kids spent hours daily travelling as far as 5 to 8 kilometres during dry season to collect water home. Time for other activities to support livelihood get less and children’s study are at risk.
Frustration had accumulated itself due to long days of hard work. It was worsened by close-to-none household income. “So the domestic violence was very common. They learned from the media encouragement to stop domestic violence, but it did not help much without their basic needs addressed,” she added.
Since 2013, Plan International Cambodia, partner and the community themselves worked together to improve access to basic public services, including the availability of safe water points. Wells have been constructed, addressing the time wasted for collecting water and enabling schooling opportunity among children. Awareness on causes and short-term as well as long-term effects of domestic violence and on potentials allowed by gender equality at home has been built among 81 families in Samrong village and across targeted communes and districts. Dramatic decline has been noticed.
Serious forms of household violence turn into minor confrontation in the family. Interestingly, 10 families with regular heavily violent practice have become the most peaceful and productive families in the communities. “Safe water point about two-minute walk from their home and practical benefits from awareness on gender issues are key behind their positive move,” Savda told her observation.
Gender Specialist of Plan International Cambodia Ek Sophanna viewed that domestic violence cannot be addressed separately from fulfilment of household’s basic needs. Pledging to keep up the hard work on gender equality awareness building, the expert encourages the government and NGO counterparts to continue mobilizing resources to address the basic needs, especially among the vulnerable groups.