Dispatch From Cambodia: NGOs, Killing Fields, and Workshop

MLSA domestic violence attorney Caroline Riss is in Cambodia as part of the Women’s Empowerment Exchange Program and has been blogging about her experience. Below are three more of her entries.

Non-Governmental Organizations

I have had the chance over the past few days to visit numerous NGO’s doing amazing work here in Cambodia. I visited the Room to Read office and met with the country director. He was an inspiring man who spoke to me about the Room to Read goals and values. Their work is impressive and very needed – hey work to empower young women and build libraries in elementary schools.I additionally was able to meet with Help Our Homeland, which is a small NGO that works to “provide hope and promote family happiness through building personal leadership and self-reliability, developing human resources and contributing to economic development in Cambodia.” The organization was very well run and relied heavily on the youth and volunteers to promote their mission.I was also able to visit a children’s shelter – where children of sexual violence and abuse stay. I met with staff at the shelter which included social workers, teachers, advocates, dorm parents, and administrative staff. It was very well run and really interesting to meet with the staff and talk about the similarities in our shelters in Montana and here in Cambodia. We also spoke about legal processes in court around victims and due process.The Women’s Empowerment Group also went to a movie about the Khmer Rouge yesterday. The movie was based on a true story and was shown through the eyes of a mother who lived through the Khmer Rouge regime. The movie was called Lost Loves, Cambodian Genocide Drama of Cambodian film director Chhay Bora. It was very intense but very well done.

Killing Fields

The Women’s Empowerment Exchange Program visited the Killing Fields located outside of Phnom Phen. The killing fields is one of a number of sites in Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge killed and buried people between 1975-1979. “Estimates of the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a population of around 8 million. “For more information you can read this article about the Killing Fields.


Today, Sarah Rossi of Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV ) and I led a workshop at Cambodia’s Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW) clinic. It was a great morning of dialogue and exchange of ideas concerning domestic and sexual violence. I was very impressed with the work that LSCW is doing here in Cambodia and I enjoyed speaking with the staff about their NGO’s struggles and successes. Sarah gave a presentation on what MCADSV does in Montana concerning policy advocacy. The LSCW had many questions for Sarah and really enjoyed hearing about her lobbying and her ability/access to speak with political members. I was able to give a presentation on the work that Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) does in Montana, specifically concerning domestic violence and family law. The LSCW staff was very interested in the work that MLSA does on the Native American Reservations in Montana and were eager to hear more about the laws and governing on the reservations. The staff also had many questions for me concerning our laws in Montana, access to the courts, funding around MLSA and much more. I was so happy to have this time to speak with the LSCW staff and exchange about our organizations and work.For more information on LSCW: http://www.lscw.org/eprofile.htmlHere is a bit of text from their site about their organization:

LSCW is independent of all political parties and is a non-profit organisation, run by Ms Ly Vichuta. The team is made up of more than 30 members, of which the majority are women. Two legal advisers are in place. Mrs Shelley Preece works on questions relates to trafficking of persons and also participates in project management. Mrs Poeung Thyda, with 10 years of experience at the Bar in Cambodia, participates in the training of LSCW staff (lawyers and legal assistants). Other members of the team supply legal services to women and children according to the following departments: a mobile protection team and a team responsible for prevention (both based in Phnom Penh), and a legal team in Prey Veng and one in Koh Kong. The Board of Administration is made up of four members, from Cambodia (the Ministry of Justice), from Japan and from Canada.LSCW is a member of the Coalition to Address Sexual Exploitation of Children in Cambodia (COSECAM), Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) in Thailand, Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) in Malaysia, and Asia Pacific Women Watch network (APWW) in the Philippines.