In the TIGER project in Cambodia, VVOB partners with Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC) to transform schools into centres of excellence for gender-responsiveness. Violence against women is still a very serious issue in the country, and GADC endeavours to challenge age-old cultural norms about what it means to be a man or a woman through constructive and meaningful dialogues. Senior Gender Programme Officer Mr Roeurn Satya (pictured above) shared GADC’s unique approach at an eNSPIRED event about gender in Brussels.
In Cambodia, many girls and women still learn these poems from their families or other influential people in their communities. And until 2007, when the Cambodian Ministry of Women’s Affairs called for its removal from the curriculum, the chbab was taught in schools. Today, the shorter version is taught to learners in grades 7 to 9, which still includes quotes such as ‘Happiness in the family comes from a woman’, or ‘A woman’s poor character results in others looking down upon her husband’.
Notwithstanding the literary and historical importance of these poems, the expected behaviours dictated are fundamentally unequal for men and women. The chbab srey can even silence women who suffer domestic violence:
Be respectful towards your husband. Serve him well and keep the flame of the relationship alive. Otherwise, it will burn you. Do not bring external problems into the home. Do not take internal problems out of the home. (source: Equal Times)
Gender Cafes and Men Dialogues
These Gender Cafes and Men Dialogues create safe spaces for women and men respectively to self-reflect, analyse and then voice their concerns about gender-based violence through a gendered lens, without pointing fingers or telling participants what to do. It builds community and trust between peers or colleagues to eventually help each other out of difficult situations or troublesome thought processes. Participants of one meeting come from similar business sectors (e.g. the entertainment industry, the food sector, the education sector etc.) and are persons of relative influence in these sectors.
In Cambodia’s context, it is wise to keep these forums separated between men and women. There is still a culture of silence where girls and women are hesitant to speak up in public, and where they experience little to no internal empowerment. But GADC endeavours to bring all participants together in a later stage, when timing feels appropriate and safe for all.
In both cases, the meetings are driven by the participants themselves, with very little input from the facilitator. After all, the participants are the experts of their specific context and experiences. Follow-up and coaching are crucial.
This is an important aspect of the TIGER project. Self-reflection and constructive dialogue between peers are key in changing deeply set, age-old cultural norms and traditions. Without widespread engagement, sustainable progress cannot be made.
The TIGER project ensures primary and lower secondary school children in Cambodia are protected from school-related gender-based violence, enabling their equitable participation in all spheres of life at school and at home. It is carried out in Battambang Province in partnership with Puthi Komar Organization (PKO), Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE), Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC), the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS). It is co-funded by the European Union and Belgium.
The eNSPIRED programme centres on strengthening Flemish educational partners in responding to questions of diversity and equity in education, and internationalisation. eNSPIRED regularly invites international experts such as Roeurn Satya to provide Flemish educators with new insights and inspiration for equity issues. eNSPIRED is funded by Belgium.