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Cambodia’s Women Bloggers (Cloghers) Document Challenges of Rural Life

School in Kanal Province courtesy of Uncle Thon.

School in Kanal Province courtesy of Uncle Thon.

Rural voices in Cambodia are often left unheard in cyberspace. Thanks to the work of the Cambodian Center of Human Rights (CCHR), a new project has been training and supporting new female bloggers hailing from rural communities across the country, where they can learn to tell their story online. These young people's university studies brought them to the capital city of Phnom Penh, enabling them to access this opportunity and connect with others with similar backgrounds and experiences.

The project called “Empowering Cloghers” recently wrapped up its first phase after receiving a Rising Voices microgrant in 2014. The term “clogher” refers to female bloggers in Cambodia. In addition to the workshops on how to create and maintain their own personal space on the web using the WordPress platform, trainers also encouraged the new cloghers to explore issues and challenges facing rural Cambodia, as well as to provide a snapshot of daily life in this part of the country.

To bring out the best in these new cloghers, the project organized a contest to find the most interesting blog posts, where three winners were chosen. At a ceremony called “Cloghers Corner” held in November 2014, the three winners and all participants of the project were recognized. The following are excerpts from the winning blog posts:

Working Conditions of Women in the Textile Sector

Many rural Cambodians find themselves with the need to migrate to other parts of the country in order to find steady employment. However, the tough work environments that they face are often not noticeable from the outside, in particular in the textile industry, where the Ministry of Commerce estimates that 90% of workers in this sector are female, which totals approximately 300,000. In addition to relatively low wages that are not enough to raise a family, workers face other types of hardships. Sum Dany spoke with some of these textile workers, who recounted some of their stories of their working conditions.

ក្នុងនោះ ផង ដែរ មាន នារី ម្នាក់ ទៀត ដែល ធ្វើការ ក្នុង រោង ចក្រ ក្បែ គ្នា នោះ និយាយ ថា “សហជីព របស់ ខ្ញុំ មិន តឹង តែង ពេក ទេ តែ ពិបាក រឿង បន្ទប់ ទឹកឲ្យ តែ ចេញ ចូល លើស ពីរ បី ដង តែង តែ សួរ ឬ ស្តីឲ្យ ហើយ។ ហើយ អ្វី ដែល ពិបាក បំផុត គឺ គ្រូ ពេទ្យ សម្តី អាក្រក់ ណាស់ និង មិន មាន ថ្នាំ ប្រើប្រាស់ គ្រប់ គ្រាន់ នោះទេ ពេល មាន មនុស្ស ឈឺ ម្តងៗ ហើយ គ្រាន់ តែ យក អ្នក សន្លាប់ ទៅ ដាក់ លើ គ្រែ ពេទ្យ និង យក ព្រេង ក្រឡា មក កោស ខ្យល់ ឲ្យ គាត់ មិន ឲ្យ ដាក់ លើ គ្រែ ពេទ្យ នោះ ទេ ខ្លាច ស្អុយ ពិបាក ណាស់ ធ្វើ អី ក៏ ហាមៗ ក្រែងគ្រែពេទ្យនៅទីនេះទុកសំរាប់ដាក់មើលកម្មកររោងចក្រដែលឈឺហែ៎ ”។ ជា ការពិត រោងចក្រ មួយ ចំនួន មើល ពី សំបក ក្រៅ ហាក់ ដូច ជា គោរព ច្បាប់ ការងារ បាន ល្អណាស់ តែ នៅ ខាង ក្នុង វិញ មាន ការ រំលោភ បំពាន សិទ្ធិ ពលក ម្មយ៉ាង ធ្ងន់ ធ្ងរ លើ កម្មករ កម្ម ការណី ក្នុងពេលកំពុងធ្វើការ។

Within that context, there is a woman who works in a nearby factory who said: “My union was not so strict but what is difficult for me is the restroom break, we could not go there for more than three times otherwise we will be asked or blamed. What’s more difficult is the doctor, his/her words are very harsh and there was never enough medicine when people got sick. They only brought those who fainted to be placed on the bed and then started coin massage. They don’t allow to put the patients on the hospital beds because of the smell, it was very hard. The doctors/nurses always blame us. I wonder what the beds are for, if not for the workers who getting sick?” Indeed, some factories, were seen by the outsider as a good factory that obey the law but inside there are a lot of worker’s rights violation.

Rural Families Struggle Hard to Keep Students in Schools

While there are more and more students from rural areas coming to the larger cities to continue their post-secondary education, most of these young people complete their primary and secondary education in rural schools. These communities present challenges such as young people required to help with household or field-related chores. Poverty also comes into play as many parents are unable to pay costs related to keeping their children in school, especially when it's time to pay additional related costs.

Chroeng Sopheakvirya wrote about the schooling system in Kandal Province, located in southeast Cambodia, and how sometimes to get additional benefits the rural teacher is paid extra for extra classes by the parents. However, some parents are unable to pay the extra sum, but schooling goes on as usual:

Parents sometimes owe the payment, but their children still come to class, and teachers still teach them as usual. This kind of situation occurs as a result of understanding. Teachers said they cannot send students back home while those children try very hard to come to class. Teachers further told that they have no choices beside waiting until students’ parents have money to pay or teachers often insist them to pay if there is no payment for 2 or 3 months. Some students comes from poor family, but they are outstanding, so teachers cannot leave them out.

River Clean Up in Phnom Penh

Photo by  Cheng Sreymom.

River clean up in Phnom Penh. Photo by Cheng Sreymom.

In an effort to adapt and become more involved with their new surroundings, many students are taking part in local activities. Cheng Sreymom recently took part in a river clean-up along the Tonlé Sap and Mekong Rivers, which are important parts of the city's landscape. Unfortunately, the rivers have alarming levels of pollution due to wastes that flow into the river. Trash can also be seen along the riverbanks, and she joined an effort to pick up trash making this part of her new community a little bit better for more to enjoy, and wrote about her reasons for taking part.

ជាការ ពិត តាម ដងទន្លេជា តំបន់ ទេស ចរណ៍ យ៉ាង ទាក់ ទាញ នៅ ក្នុងទី ក្រុង ភ្នំពេញ យើង ទាំងភ្ញៀ វជាតិ និងភ្ញៀវ អន្តរ ជាតិ ដែល តែងតែ មកកំ សាន្តដើម្បីស្រូម យក ខ្យល់អា កាស បរិសុទ្ធ និង សំរាកលំ ហែជា លក្ខណះ គ្រូសារ ជា ដើម។ ប៉ុន្តែ វាគួរ អោយសោក ស្តាយ ដោយសារ ប្រជា ពល រដ្ឋ មួយ ចំនួនខ្វះ ការ យល់ដឹងពីបញ្ហា បរិស្ថាន ដែល ពួក គាត់បា នបោះ សំរាម ចោលពុំ បាន ត្រឹមត្រូវដែល ធ្វើអោយ កន្លែង ទេស ចរណ៍ពោ ពេញទៅ ដោយបរិ ស្ថាន កខ្វក់ សំរាម ស្អុយ រលួយ ធំខ្លិនមិ ន ល្អ ធ្វើអោយ ភ្ញៀ វទេ សច រណ៍វា យតំលៃ ដល់ សង្គម ជាតិ យើង ទាំ ងមូល។ នាងខ្ញុំ Apochcheng ជាពល រដ្ឋ ខ្មែរ មួយ រូប ដែល បាន ចូលរួម ជួយ ក្នុង យុទ្ធនា ការណ៍ សំអាត បរិ ស្ថាន នេះ។ ខ្ញុំ មាន អារ ម្មណ៍ ថា យើង ទាំង អស់ គ្នា ត្រូវ នាំ គ្នា ផ្លាស់ ប្តូរ ទំលាប់ មិន ល្អ ចេញ ដើម្បី អភិវឌ្ឍ ខ្លួន យើង អោយ ខ្លាយ ទៅ ជា ពល រដ្ឋល្អ ដែល មាន សិល ធម៌ ល្អ សំរាប់ យើង និង សង្គម ជាតិ ទាំង មូល មានតែ ខ្មែរ យើង ទាំង អស់ គ្នា ទេ ដែល ជួយប្រ ទេស យើង អោយ រីក ចំរើន បាន។

The riverside is one of the attractive touristic sites in Phnom Penh, both national and international tourists and their families have always visited here in order to catch fresh air and to relax. However, it is very unfortunate because some of our citizens lack knowledge about the environment, always throwing away trash improperly causing the touristic site to be dirty and smelly making the tourists wrongly perceive of our society. I, Apochhceng am one of the citizens who participated in this campaign to clean the city. I feel that we all have to change our bad habits in order to improve ourselves in order to become a good citizen with good morals for both ourselves and the entire society.

While the first phase of the project has come to an end, the experience working with new cloghers across Cambodia has motivated the CCHR to look for additional ways to support new voices. The CCHR's Executive Director Sopheap Chak is seeking to crowdfund future activities.

Thanks to Ramana Sorn for the translation from Khmer into English.

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