September 23-28, 2005
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The RWP-Cambodia SCM Joint Women’s Programme was held from 23-28 September 2005 in Phnom Penh. 35 women and men students participated in this first Women’s Programme of the Cambodia SCM (CSCM) since it was formed in 1999. The theme that CSCM has chosen was “Women and Men in Partnership for Change and Development in Cambodia”. The resource persons for this programme are Emma Cantor (deaconess and advisor to the Asian Women’s Project of the United Methodist Church) who gave a 2-day input on Gender Sensitivity and Women & Men Partnership; and Paddy Noble who gave a theological reflection on the different aspects of violence on women in relation to the Cambodian context. There was also a one-day exposure to a women’s shelter for women and children of domestic violence.
The programme began with the participants sharing their personal stories in the Tree of Life exercise. Many of them shared on the increasing number of domestic violence that are occurring in many Cambodian families which is causing grave concern especially with the women participants. Connecting the participants’ stories and concerns, the resource person, Emma Cantor, started her session with an interactive activity to share on the concepts of Gender in relations to cultural socialisation and constructions, Gender Stereotyping and Gender Ideology that gives privileges and preferences to a society that supports androcentrism. Emma also relates Gender Oppression to our religion and the sharing/distribution of the world’s resources and benefits. On her second input, Emma shared on the importance of men’s involvement in women’s empowerment and achievement of equal rights by emphasizing on the Fair Education concept of Sharing of Parenting, Sharing of Home Management, Sharing of Decision-Making, Equalisation of Opportunities, Equalisation of Representation in Public Sphere, Making Women’s Roles and Contribution Visible, Valued and Recognised, Eliminating all Forms of Violence Against Women and Ensuring a Non-Sexist Socialisation.
The third day was the exposure to the women’s shelter for women and children survivors of domestic violence where the participants had the opportunity to share with the women and children residents of the shelter. They also had a good discussion with the director of the shelter who shared on her experiences in living out her beliefs on helping the women and children in domestic violence.
Paddy Noble, the current senior advisor to CSCM, gave a profound theological reflection on the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in relation to the Cambodian context of women’s oppression and the concept of son-preferential and privileges. He brought the participants to share on their feelings and perceptions on the 3 characters and inculcated them to reflect these to the Cambodian context as well as in their own families. The discussion was extremely enriching for the participants as many felt such theological reflections were more profound and provoked belter understanding than those they experienced in their own institutional churches.
The whole programme then concluded on a resolute pledge particularly from the men participants to be gender sensitive with a start at the domestic front. Many participants called for a continuation of such programmes so that they could acquire more knowledge and understanding on gender, patriarchy and feminist perspectives. The success of this programme prompted the Executive Committee of CSCM to set up a Working Group and appoint a women’s coordinator so as to develop regular women’s programmes. The ExCo also tends to invite several identified women students who showed good potentials, into the ExCo. Hence, the ExCo will have a better gender balance.