ENGLISH2015.04.14 14:31

Annual Progress Report on 2014 Gender Cafe Project

by Gender and Development for Cambodia(GADC)

I.     Introduction

In 2014, Gender Cafe project worked with four sector women groups, namely entertainment workers (EW), victims of land eviction, garment factory workers, domestic workers and with key members of Gender Cafe activists in 2013. They are marginalized groups in both social and political participation and whose rights to access to and control over resources have been violated. The suffered from gender based violence either at household or workplace. Having embraced with traditional customary code of conduct for women, these groups have not shared their family affair to outsiders and were not aware that their rights have been abused, particularly on marital rape based on baseline. By comparing to their male counterparts, women have less chances and spaces to express their innermost issues to public. GADC cooperated with partners who have been working with women in relevant sectors to identify the target groups to build their confidence and provide safe space for them to express women’s concerns. This project was co-funded by Dorun Dorun and HBF. Within 2014, a series of activities have been done: 5 project orientations were done with 77 participants, 20 Gender Cafe meetings in Phnom Penh, coaching sessions, radio talk show and camping in Kep Province. At least each group met four times per year and the topics for meetings are: gender and violence, gender and law, gender and health, and gender and culture norms. All members found that Gender Cafe meetings are very useful for them and women are happy to learn from each other’s experiences.


II.  Narrative Results

With the activities described above, women’s concerns and violent cases have been emerged and have been discussed for appropriate solutions. This brings about changes with the following:


1.    There is a significant increase the number of women who have confidence to express their innermost problems to their members as well as to public. About 81% of Gender Cafe members expressed that they felt safe and comfortable to talk about sexuality, sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women among their members if compared to the baseline about 54% of members shared about these issues with limited people who they believe that those people would not speak out and most of them share general conflict which do not deal with sexuality. An interesting case of a member who did not talk and dared not to tell members even about her name in the first meeting, yet in the 3rd meeting she could share with tears to members about her biological father who often touched her sexual organ for ages without punishment because she could not bring out such issue to the public for intervention. This is also more likely resulted from empathy among their members who motivated and inspired them to talk as well as listen to them with mindfulness through observation from each meeting. They do not only respect each other’s point of view, but also shared their experience to each other both success and failure toward gender based violence cases with mental, physical and economic supports. For example, a member who is an entertainment worker raised about discrimination against pregnant women at workplace: the entertainment workers are required to test pregnancy every month, if anyone is pregnant, she has to abort her child in order to keep the job. As women, this case annoyed and suffered other members once they heard. Some of them encouraged her to bring the case to the enforcement officers with seeking support from NGOs who provide legal support to women, while some shared experience that it was useless to bring it to the police if we did not pay them as they perceived that we deserved it because we are sex workers. Instead, they suggested as women we have to be strong and made it loud to the public. Another example found once one of members shared her hardship life that has to be accountable for many grandsons and daughters with insufficient financial support and improper shelter, other members contributed their money to help her. The old lady feels grateful to members with million thanks.


In addition to the increment of self-confidence and sense of solidarity among women, 40% of Gender Cafe members are confident to talk in public and actively participated in advocacy campaigns if compared to baseline was only 10%. 6 out of 64 members are confident to talk about their personal experience on violence against women to public through several national radio programs during a 16 days’ campaign to end violence against women and girls in 2014. They were women from entertainment service, garment factories and domestic work and were guest speakers in different radio channels on the topics of “Domestic violence and Sexual harassment” strengthening their confidence to cope with discrimination against them. At the same time, about 30% of them celebrated[1] and participated in the campaign ending violence against women. Some of them participated in national forums organized by GADC and Ministry of Women Affairs to produce recommendations for and to launch the national policies, whilst others cooperated with LGBTs group to organize Men Care campaign and concert to disseminate messages to end violence against women in their respective communities in Phnom Penh and Kandal Province.


2.    More women gained knowledge gender related issues and increased actions to address violence against women in their respective communities in Phnom Penh. Based on the results of each Gender Cafe meetings, majority of Gender Cafe members who participated in the meetings can explain gender concept and link the topic to their personal experience. For instance, once the group discussed about gender and violence, a group of land eviction victims described about mental and sexual harassment by their male community leaders and husbands respectively. The male leaders insulted and did not listen to them because they are females who they don’t believe could lead community. In addition, some of them ended up with divorce as they could not provide sex satisfaction to their husband because they were too tired and stressful with activism for housing rights. Also, through coaching session, all of 2013 gender café activists (5 women) can elaborate the issue clearly and have strong passion on imparting their knowledge to community people. They know various forms of domestic violence and how they are taken into account by law i.e. just name a few, they encouraged other members to register marriage certificate as it is a legal mean to ensure women can access to and control over resources as equal as their husbands because most of those women have not registered marriage. All of them were coached and provided floor to facilitate Gender Cafe with members in 2014 on the topic of gender and health. They demonstrated the strong confidence   in facilitation, even though their critical concept on it is still limited.


Besides improving understanding and capacity on gender, through coaching and assessments from one Gender Cafe meeting to another, about 85% of 64 of members imparted and disseminated gender related information[2] to their co-workers, neighbors, family members and local authorities, whereas in baseline revealed about 40% of them shared general information about their work experience and job opportunities. This contributed to increase more people be aware of their rights and gain confidence to speak in public. Some women created their own group to share information, while some shared to individual once they have spared time or after work. For example, after one of Gender Café members shared about the forms of violence against women and law that protect women’s rights to their family members, her mother decided to divorce[3] with her farther as she could not tolerate with patriarchy acts of her husband and mother-in-law toward her. This is due to the fact that she learnt that the actions of her husband and mother-in-law whom she lived with for nearly 30 years were domestic violence, while in the past she thought she deserved those actions as she was not a good wife. A part from this change, she was confident to share her issues to national radio program to inform the public how suffered she has experienced.


Members do not only sharing information to their community people, but also they increased actions to address the issues of gender based violence. They helped by reporting violence against women (VAW) cases once they found their neighbors were beaten by her male counterparts, while in the past they perceived VAW is a private issue. Similarly, those women who had faced domestic violence from their husbands, applied negotiation method rather than escape or fight against them either mental or physical approach. For example, one woman from domestic worker group has said that she can change her husband who always uses violence (emotional, economic and physical) on her. In the past when her husband bit her, she cried and tried to escape to somewhere and came back when her husband’s anger went down. Learning from experience of members during Gender Cafe meetings, she tried to open talk with her husband while he felt better and together found the root causes of problem. As a result, her husband listened to her and less committed violence to her.



III.   Challenges


       Working with EW group, their schedule is normally tight all the time thus they cannot fully participate in three hours gender café event and sometimes they missed the gender café. Therefore, project implementer needs to be very flexible with time.

       Mobilizing factory worker group took very long time as this group have actively involved in protest which makes it very hard to contact to their representative and other partners.

       There was replaced a street vender group by a domestic worker group as a result of their business and low commitment.

       All members of Gender Cafe are busy on week day and weekend particularly domestic workers, except Sunday morning.

       It was found a challenge once some women tried to challenge with their husbands to demand right to choice and voice in the families, a few husbands feel insecurity and afraid of losing their powers so it led to more conflict in the family. It is worthwhile to work with men about this issue.


IV.   Lessons learned


       To inspire gender café activism, video screening about gender related issue could work effectively to discuss about gender related issues as it provide image rather than abstract idea.

      Starting by giving floor to members to express their experiences and life story is a helpful way to start a meaningful discussion especially to help members understand gender based violence.

      Being involved a resource person in technical topics such as law and health is a crucial method to sharpen women’s understanding as they have floor to clarify their doubts. For instance, Gender Cafe meeting on gender related law topic, which is the most relevant because members can have very limited knowledge about laws and polices protect their rights, was invited a practicing lawyer on this field to share her experience to members and lots of questions were raised.  As a result, once members learnt about those policies, they are confident to either file complaint to the authorities.

      Camping is a platform for all women in different sectors to build relationship and strong sense of solidarity among women to help women either within group members or outside women.


V.   Annexes

      Annex 1 : Case change

      Annex 2 : Photos





[1] This result added up to the activity that all members celebrated a 16-day campaign to end violence against women during the camping in Kep province.

[2] This includes information about the policies that protect women, forms of violation, experience of violence against women, and good practice to cope with violence at workplace and household.

[3] Divorce still view as a negative aspect in majority of Cambodian families, so anyone who divorce, particularly women rather than men, will be criticised as a person not good.

[Annex 1 : Case change]

The Story of Change

New Life after breaking the culture the silence


Navy[1], is 37 years old, works as a domestic worker which is one of the low paid jobs in Phnom Penh.  She married a husband, who is a motorbike taxi driver, with one child in seven years. She suffered discrimination and violence committing by her husband for three years in the forms of physical, psychological and economic abuses. “We had conflicts 3-4 times per week and he often beat and insulted me whenever I asked my husband for his income’s allocation to support family’s livelihood” she told. ‘While I was pregnant, she did not want me to work outside, except to be a good wife who has to take care children, house chores and husband so he created lots of problems which forced me to resign from my job” she added. She continued that once she quit job, her husband did not give her enough money for household expenses, instead blamed her, without seeing how much the family needed, on why she had to spend lots of money as it was not easy to earn income. Her husband not only scolded but also hit her. Then, she hid herself in my kitchen and cried alone. “At that time I did not shared and found any support from others because I did not know where I should go and I thought I was not a good wife— I should not argued against him that why he hit me and it was my fault— and I might do bad things in previous life that why I misfortunes this life” she explained.


             After joining Gender Cafe project in 2014, Navy found the gender cafe meetings are very important and helpful so she has never been absent any meeting. She learnt a lot about womens rights, gender roles, laws, social norms that viewed to women and men in difference ways. She also learnt from members that economic independence is a crucial factor for dealing with her conflicts. Learning from this with motivation and inspiration from members, I was confident (not blamed myself anymore) to communicate with my husband about family concerns including financial issue, children expenses and my role in economic by explaining him the reasons rather than kept silent and criedshe described. As a result, my husband understood and has not use physical violence on me; he starts to respect me, shares house work and   decision in household, so our relationship is betterfrom now on if my husband still commits violence on me, I will  file a complaintshe added. She has a job now so she could afford her children to schools and save some money for purchasing a piece of land. A part from this, Navy could negotiate with her boss about work condition and keep her passions to share experience in public to other women and men contributing to end domestic violence in their family.

[1] This name is not a real one, but created.  

[Annex 2 : Photos]

We are together in claiming our rights!!!

Solidarity will make us stronger!!

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