Seven a play about successful female leaders debuted in New York January 21 featuring Cambodia’s own Mu Sochua (below).
Mu Sochua is drained, having just returned to the capital from the campaign trail
in Kampot where she is fighting for seats in the National Assembly for the opposition
Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). But she's in a reflective mood, and talking about matters
dear to her, she's revitalized.
It is the four-year anniversary of her defection from Funcinpec to the SRP, a move
that was inspired by the murder of union activist Chea Vichea. And just hours before
speaking to the Post on January 21, halfway across the globe her incarnation was
stepping off a Manhattan stage.
Mu Sochua, SRP deputy secretary-general, was one of seven women from around the world
selected for portrayal in the documentary play Seven, which focuses on contemporary
female leaders who have triumphed against the odds. The production is a collaboration
between seven award-winning playwrights and Vital Voices Global Partnership-an international
women's nonprofit in Washington, DC whose stated mission is to "invest in emerging
women leaders and build the capabilities, connections, and credibility they need
to unlock their potential as catalysts of global progress."
Sochua says she was first contacted by Vital Voices about the play in mid-2007. Her
monologue was crafted by French playwright Catherine Filloux, a friend of Sochua's
whose body of work has centered on genocide, in particular on the trauma experienced
by Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge.
The production's debut on January 21 drew an over-capacity crowd of 800, each paying
$18 to see the show at the 92nd Street theater in New York. The performance will
run at other venues in New York City, including a March 6 show as a celebration of
International Women's day, before touring universities around the country and possibly
abroad, according to Vital Voices spokeswoman Eileen Reed.
The director, playwrights and staff of Vital Voices who were involved in the play
all donated their time to make the production a reality, she adds.
Sochua says she was touched to find herself in the same narrative as the six other
women, describing them as "people who can't sit still in front of injustice."
Represented in the play alongside Sochua are Hafsat Abiola of Nigeria, an advocate
for human rights and democracy; Farida Azizi of Afghanistan, who fought against the
marginalization of women under Taliban rule; Annabella De Leon, a congresswoman of
Guatemala who raised herself and her family out of poverty by getting an education
and now campaigns for rights for the poor; Russian Marina Pisklakova-Parker, who
in 1993 founded her country's first hotline for victims of domestic violence; Inez
McCormack of Northern Ireland, an activist for women's rights and social justice;
and Mukhtar Mai of Pakistan, whose story captured headlines around the world when,
after being gang raped as payback for an alleged "honor crime," she pursued
her attackers through the country's justice system instead of bowing to cultural
pressure and remaining silent.
"Knowing about these women makes me feel like I'm ok, like I'm not crazy,"
says Sochua, a 2005 co-nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sex
trafficking of women in Cambodia and Thailand.
Sochua appears humbled at being placed amongst such august company on the stage.
"Why me? My story is so lame compared to the others," she says. "I
haven't even been to jail!"
For Sochua, the audacity of her companions encourages her to push harder.
"I envy the woman in Guatemala who stood up to corruption. I wonder today if
I have the courage to go all the way like she did," she says, adding that reading
the script had a cathartic effect.
"I'm glad this is happening at the same time as the campaign trail. On the campaign
trail there's an aim and you want to be tough, suppress your feelings. But this play
reassured me I'm human."
Melanne Verveer, chairwoman and cofounder of Vital Voices, says Seven was intended
to be inspiring to theatergoers by revealing how individual women have overcome seemingly
insurmountable hurdles to justice and freedom. "We hope the Seven stories will
inspire audiences to commit themselves to changing our world for the better,".