Monday, July 23, 2007

First Day in Cambodia

Breakfast at the hotel was a mix of soup, fried rice, kimchi, eggs, fruit, pancakes and toast. Sophanara (UNFPA Cambodia Communications Associate) and Sultan (Driver) met me at about 8am and the film crew followed in a pick up truck behind them.

We went straight to the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center Shelter. Like most shelters there was no identifying information outside to be sure that abusers, etc, are unable to find it. Ms. Noeun was there to greet me and I could see she had plenty of energy. Her motorcycle was parked out front, since she too had just arrived. I explained that it would be wonderful if she could just go about her morning like she normally would—and allow the video crew to follow behind her. I’m sure she did some of her meetings in fast forward but she really was great at ignoring the camera and giving her un-dived attention to each person she encountered.

Women and children who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse are able to live at the shelter during their legal process. Ms. Noeun started her morning by stopping into the kids classroom. Kids of all ages were in one room—and when we walked through they were busy tracing shapes at the table. A couple babies were asleep in small hammocks and a few kids were sitting in a group and drawing. They all looked forward to seeing Ms. Noeun and responded early as she asked them about how they were and what they were working on. She stopped and helped them on their project and makes time to somehow make each child feel acknowledged.

The Sewing room was pretty cool for me to see. Twelve extra sewing machines were against the wall—that said donated by UNFPA. When the woman are ready to leave the Center they are given one each allowing with 100,000 Riel ( $25) to help them start their own business.

Women also learned how to cook. Each day four women are responsible for cooking. They are given $25 to go to the market and prepare 4 meals for 50 people (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner). They had porridge and water for breakfast and for lunch they were making fries, sour soup, fried tofu, and rice. They usually calculate costs at 50 cents per person per day but they also reserve some money for the kids to have transportation to school and also for travel to the market.

The girls are age 17 and younger; boys age 8 and younger. Women vary in age—but the average age in 55. Most stay for about 8 months to one year. Other women come to receive CWCC legal services and support, but they chose to live with family instead of at the shelter.

CWCC has an in-house attorney and medical staff that come to the center. There is one other center is Siem Reap that provides similar services. Though the capacity of the shelter is 50 people, they’ve never turned anyone away.

Sometimes the women go back and live with their abuser, who is most cases is their husband. The husbands must testify and sign a document with CWCC promising that they won’t abuse again. CWCC explains that this does not always work, but they system is currently set up so that women can come back three times if they need to.

I spent the afternoon learning more about Ms. Noeun and her work. We went to the Center and met her team there. She actually lives at her office and two of her grandkids live really close by. At the end of the day she took them on a motorcycle ride to the park and it was fun to watch as they held tight to their grandmother.

No comments: