Monday, October 15, 2007

Sophanara's Trip to NYC: A Personal Perspective

Sophanara Blogs for Americans for UNFPA

As for the personal reflection I feel that non-profits organizations in the US and Cambodia have similar goals towards promoting women’s status and protecting women and girls rights. Similar centers have been established and vocational trainings have been provided as well as counseling to heal the trauma. However, I personally noted that the communication system between the victim and assistance providers in the US is more modern, especially in terms of technology. In the U.S. the internet and email is a common medium for communicating even when sensitive matters are involved, while in Cambodia service providers have to be community-based agents or provided through a local authority network. In terms of resource mobilization skills, we are not as strong as the Americans for UNFPA; partly because Cambodian society is not very supportive of social development issues and they are frequently influenced by political philosophy.

Attending the Gala event was the most important learning opportunity of my trip to New York in October. I learned the way the organizer (Americans for UNFPA) mobilizes support from its friends and supporters.

The commitment from American honorees, social workers others supportive of UNFPA’s work reflects the western’s value and the way they help/care each other. It shows how Americans lead their lives.

I had a chance to meet the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and his wife in person – he is a very supportive leader for improving women’s status.

Through the informal discussion with the international honorees, I learnt that the issues challenging developing countries are not much different to one another in how they contribute to assisting their communities – I feel now that we are not alone in our efforts.

It was a very great honor for me to meet with members of the US Congress, the Board of Directors of Americans for UNFPA and its staff members, non-profit organizations and American citizens at different capacities. Most of them shared our concerns although their priorities varied.

I feel that I did not have a chance to listen the voices of the vulnerable groups or the poor people (centre) and the White house (executive body).

The memorable experiences include the varieties of transportation methods that I took from one place to another. I was able to explore many places and states by walking, riding the subway, taking an express train, and taking a bus. The weather in fall was perfect for me; it was hot like summer time. On the east coast in particular the trees were green and natural. It was so surprised when I saw lots of forest beside the highway. I have always thought that in the industrialized countries there would not much natural resources conserved such as big trees, birds, animals.

I found that NYC is a commercial center and time is valuable for New Yorkers, people walk very fast in crowds and we could not sit longer in a restaurant once we have dined given demands from other clients. The US, NY in particular, is the country for everybody – I met people from various countries including Asians, Africans, Caribbean’s, Arabians and Europeans, though they are legally American citizens, their original languages are used among their folks – making them feel like their home countries. I myself did not see much gap between the rich and poor. People seem to respect law and do not interfere in other’s private lives.

Though, I rarely saw smiles on New Yorkers’ faces, most of them who came into my contact are very friendly and helpful. The personal relationships with few American friends are wealthy and unforgettable memory in my life! I, very much, believe in the educational qualification in the US, therefore, I wish I would have chance to graduate there! (That’s my dream!)

Friday, October 5, 2007

My Trip to NYC with 2007 Americans for UNFPA International Honoree from Cambodia

Sophanara guest blogs for Americans for UNFPA.

The International Award organized by Americans for UNFPA provides a great opportunity to the activists who work at the ground to improve the health and dignity for women by recognizing and acknowledging them globally. In addition to mobilizing resources, women-related issues have been consistently raised through this high-level advocacy effort and the people living in industrialized countries such as the U.S. citizens gain a better view on what happens to marginalized groups, especially women in developing communities. Also activists can share personal and work experiences on how they are challenged and how it can be frustrating when coping with these kinds of sensitive issues. Activists also explain how they contribute to improving the lives of suffered people in their own community.

In complement to advocacy efforts constantly used by UNFPA, it has been observed that the attention that media pays to women's issues was gained gradually. Today, women’s related issues including health, gender, and domestic violence and trafficking are frequently talked about in the media.

Given the active role of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC) in addressing women’s issues, in particular providing legal support to women the work is greatly appreciated by beneficiaries, stakeholders and donors. We have learned that Ms. Ket Noeun is a very committed, dedicated and devoted person in advocating women’s problems. Based on this Noeun was nominated and we believe she is role model as a strong advocate in her community. She was excited and energized once she learnt that her nomination was successfully awarded, hence her dedication has been rewarded. She hoped that her experiences from the grass root level would convince American’s people to have further support to Cambodia social development.

It was amazing that Noeun could witness and represent UNFPA support at the community level to members of Congress. As part of this, we believe that American government will be reconsidering political support to UNFPA’s roles and interventions globally.

At the same time, honoree felt that the fund provided by the UNFPA country office to support her work does not comprehensively respond to the needs of women.

As always, Noeun continuously carries out her efforts in advocating for women’s health by organizing debates, forums, events in the community and publicly and it has been captured steadily by media.