'Charter of Demands' voices priorities of Cambodian women

Last Updated: 4 May 2020

Phnom Penh, February 2020 - A series of new publications by ActionAid Cambodia is hoping to change rules of engagement for women around Cambodia. The Women’s Charter of Demands -- being developed by ActionAid in partnership under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-supported ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ project -- will play an important role in the activation of females at provincial, commune and village levels. 
The series emphasises that as disasters increase across the country of Cambodia, they are not universal in their impacts. “History has systematically shown that women and children are differentially impacted by these occurrences,” said Head of Programmes at UNDP Cambodia, Dr. Rany Pen, in her opening remarks at the launch of the charter. “In Cambodia, women need to be able to speak up and contribute to processes which affect them, including disaster management plans and activities. Their important role in their communities must be recognised with active and meaningful involvement in decision-making, implementation and feedback at all levels.” 
The charter focuses on giving women at community level a voice to share their experiences and shape their own future. In its opening statement, the charter states, “Women are less likely to be given opportunities to raise their issues. During this data collection, the women have been courageous in identifying and speaking their needs; in turn, they hope to get a timely, accountable response and to further encourage women to increase their engagement in decision making in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Specific demands have been identified in order to seek for responses from authorities and relevant institutions at all levels.”
The Charter of Demands has been developed for three provinces – Kampot, Pursat and Koh Kong – following data collection by women champions in the area. Over 350 women and local authorities from 38 villages took part in the process, which involved identifying key needs and priorities for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA). A localized version of the charter was developed for each province, allowing for better integration in a realistic way into plans and procedures across all levels. 
Priorities fell into five topics: infrastructure, safe areas, emergency response, education and awareness raising and advocacy. Examples of demands included access to clean water, safe areas with enough facilities and resources, education and awareness raising for relevant issues such as mitigation activities and emergency veterinarian care, timely emergency responses and well-built and maintained roads and canals. 
The charter also includes case studies of women who have been involved in the process, and how addressing specific priorities would have helped them in the past.
Development of the charter has enabled the growth of women champions in these provinces. Women champions are ‘outstanding women’ who have been trained under the ActionAid and UNDP partnership to address needs in risk reduction and climate adaptation, whilst promoting gender equality, in their local communities. 
The women champions were responsible for provincial data collection. Ms. Bun Panharith, one of the women’s champions from Pursat, described how previously many of the  champions had limited education; following the activities, the women champions have not only been trained in Cambodia, but many have had opportunities to train and present overseas in countries such as Switzerland, Indonesia and Thailand. She describes how many of the women have become more “courageous and brave.”
The Women’s Charter of Demands aligns with Sustainable Development Goal 5, which strives towards gender equality across all areas of society. In particular, the charter supports SDG 5.5, which aims to ‘ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life’.
Similarly, the charter supports the goals of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which specifically state that women must be integrated into disaster risk reduction policies and practices. Through developing the charter, opportunity is identified for the integration of women into provincial level leadership. 
The Women’s Charter of Demands was launched by ActionAid in December 2019, alongside the Cambodia Women’s Resilience Index. Taken together, it is hoped the documents and activities can enhance the future of Cambodian women in the context of disasters.
Written by Kelsea Clingeleffer, Results Monitoring and Evaluation Consultant
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For more information contact Muhibuddin Usamah (Project Manager) at muhibuddin.usamah@undp.org