On August 8th the first community forum of 2013 took place in Kampong Tom province, Cambodia, organized by the Women’s Media of Cambodia (WMC), a Cambodian radio station. The community forum was held only one week after the National Elections of Cambodia’s National Assembly (a comprehensive analysis of the Cambodian elections will be published soon).
The aftermath of the elections, which were said to be fraud and manipulated, were still obvious. The main topic of the community forum was “social service provision”. It was addressing local decision makers, authorities and the people of chosen target villages. Prior to the forum, RLS’s partner WMC broadcasted and trained the participants on the definition of service provision according to Cambodian law. According to Cambodian law, service provision provided by the local authorities is free of charge for every Cambodian citizen. Hence, it is not right if Cambodians are asked to pay when applying for ID-cards (which are needed if you like to vote), birth certificates (which are needed if you like to go to school) and marriage certificates (which are for example needed if you “legalize” a child). But still, most of the Cambodian people do not know about their rights and they suffer a constant fear of authorities. Cambodia is said to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world and especially district authorities or police forces enjoy bad reputation.
The community forum, hosted around twice a year by WMC, is a part of the cooperation program between RLS and WMC and collects opinions and voices of local villagers as well as of authorities. Later on, the collected material is broadcasted and discussed in the “Oh! Men Radio Program to Promote Social and Legal Support, and Harmony in the Community”. Since the launching of the program, participation and the scope of the program enlarged constantly. Topics that are being discussed range from “social service provision”, over “domestic violence”, “gender issues” to “information about the election process in Cambodia”. According to the people, the program has constantly improved the living conditions of the people, strengthened their awareness and has especially reduced suspiciousness towards authorities. But not only are the villagers benefiting from the radio program. RLS project manager also had the chance to discuss the development and the use of the program with local authorities from district and province level. Surprisingly the feedback was very positive as the radio program provides an education service the government is not able to provide. There are still obstacles on the way to a better harmony in the community but the “Oh men project” is contributing a major part to a more social and fair future in Cambodia’s province.
The next community forum is scheduled for October and will discuss the topic of domestic violence. Unfortunately it is still a major issue in the rural areas of Cambodia but since the launching of the project in the target villages, the reports of domestic violence are steadily declining. One of the reasons is that women are getting more and more engaged in the development of the community. Unfortunately the latest election seems to be a step back in the promotion of gender equality as fewer women have been elected than the millennium goals were asking for.