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Housing Activist Accepts Award at Kennedy Center Gala

Tep Vanny, 31, a prominent Cambodian housing rights activist, talks to over 2,500 people after receiving the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award 2013 (Leadership in Public Life Award) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, April 2, 2013. (Courtesy of Vital Voices/Kate Hauschka)

WASHINGTON DC - Housing rights activist Tep Vanny and other international rights advocates were awarded in a gala event at the Kennedy Center in Washington Tuesday night, sharing the stage with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.

The event was held by Vital Voices, an organization established by Clinton in 1997.

Tep Vanny accepted a global leadership award, calling it a sign that the Cambodian struggle for housing and land in the face of forced evictions had earned international recognition.

“I will continue to advocate and struggle until there is a solution,” she told VOA Khmer after the ceremony, which was aimed at raising the profile of a number of women activists internationally.

Tep Vanny has emerged as a prominent leader for former residents of the Boeung Kak lake neighborhood, which was leveled for a massive development project that also filled in the lake. Some 4,000 families have been relocated since 2008, with 61 families still holding out for a small parcel of land on the 133-hectare site.

“The award is very meaningful to the women of Beoung Kak lake and other victims,” Tep Vanny said. “It means their voices have been heard globally. They are supporting us and not allowing us to be isolated.”