Monday, 7 March 2011

Award finalists weave local change

The Indradevi Hope Awards were designed by Artisans d’Angkor. Behind, award finalist Loem Lida talks about her work in a village near Siem Reap. Photo by: PHA LINA

From left, finalists Sophea Oum, Chum Kirivath and Houn Sovannary. Photo by: PHA LINA

via CAAI

Monday, 07 March 2011 15:00 Sarah Macklin

SIX inspiring women have been named as finalists for Cambodia’s first Indradevi Hope Awards.

“We wanted to honour the extraordinary Cambodian women who are working hard to bring about a positive change in their communities,” said Lynn Muller, president of Women’s International Group, a non-profit group of more than 20 nationalities who meet regularly in Phnom Penh.

And the awards were a great way to draw attention to the unsung heroines working in the fields of education, health and the empowerment of women, she added.

“The Indradevi awards demonstrate WIG’s commitment to community-based projects. This is an inaugural award that we hope will continue on an annual basis.”

Each of three winners will be awarded US$1,500 toward their chosen project during an awards dinner on Saturday, March 12 at the InterContinental Hotel.

The Indradevi Hope Awards were named after a remarkable queen – the wife of King Jayavarman VII who established health and education programmes for women, way ahead of her time in the 11th century.

The finalists come from across Cambodia. Touth Koeun used her training in midwifery and nursing, first gained through Médicins sans Frontières in Thai refugee camps during the 1990s, to improve the lives of women and their babies in remote villages in Preah Vihear province.

Since 1995 she has worked with traditional healers and trains midwives to improve ante-natal health and child health across 18 rural clinics through her NGO M’day Rea Reay, Kone Reay (Happy Mother, Happy Baby).

Villagers in Stung Treng province also have another nominee to thank for improved livelihoods. Nguon Chantha’s Stung Treng Women’s Development Centre has grown from teaching weaving to patients with AIDS and HIV to becoming a UNESCO-awarded silk group producing bags and cloth in Mekong Blue shops in Phnom Penh and online.

Originally trained as a nurse, Nguon Chantha’s commitment to reviving crafts has provided employment at fair wages to rural women, along with supplying them with free lunches, kindergartens and schooling for their children.

Chum Kirivath has also used weaving as a way to help the ethnic Kreung community in remote Rattanakiri province. Giving skills training to young women, she runs her own business designing textile products and is about to open a shop in Siem Reap.

Sophea Oum is another award nominee who provides employment to more than 70 women in a village about 30 kilometres outside Siem Reap, reviving the traditional skills of raising, spinning and dyeing Cambodian golden silk, which is indigenous to the area. She also established an orphanage in Battambang that is still open today, run by one of her former charges.

Young women were also to the forefront of the awards. Young Phnom Penh accountant Houn Sovannary, 25, uses the money she earns from her part-time job teaching Khmer to fund a makeshift school near the golf course at New City, teaching English every Saturday to eager children. She hopes one day to open her own school on land she has bought.

And teacher Loem Lida is making a difference in her village near Siem Reap. Seeing health problems from piles of rubbish in outlying hamlets, she’s organised volunteers for community development to teach English and organise rubbish collection. Her latest inspiration is a community vegetable garden and fish farm to improve nutrition among villagers.

A total of 48 women were nominated for the awards, for which the trophy was designed by Artisans d’Angkor.

Sponsors of the award include ANZ Royal Bank, Cellcard and Lucky Supermarkets.

For more details on the finalists, see Friday’s 7Days magazine.

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