PHNOM PENH —
A small group of Cambodian and Burmese women leaders are meeting in Phnom Penh this week, calling for more rights and political positions.
Eight women from Burma, also known as Myanmar, and five women from Cambodia met as part of the Network Initiative, a collaboration between the Khmer Women’s Association and the Vital Voices Global Partnership.
The latter program, founded by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, seeks to put more women in positions of influence, including politics, human rights and other positions in society.
“The principle is to make women become politicians,” said Mu Sochua, a lawmaker-elect for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. “We are advocating for change. We are uniting our female forces from Cambodia and Myanmar to create a network.”
“We are here to learn from our Cambodian sisters and to share our experiences,” said Yin Myo Su, founder of the Inthar Heritage House in Burma. “Learning from Cambodian women leaders will help us a lot.”
The women came from the arenas of politics, civil society and activism. Among them was a Burmese woman who spent seven years in prison, as well as Cambodian land activist Tep Vanny, an outspoken community leader who has also been jailed.
Lauren Wollack, senior manager for Vital Voices, said Cambodian and Burmese women face similar leadership challenges: “with land grabbing, with violence, with crackdowns when people are trying to exercise democratic principles.”
“So I think that women coming together and sharing in that and both saying that they are standing up for those beliefs only makes their voices stronger, more powerful,” she said.