Deborah Seccombe/Phnom Penh Post
Lindsay Miller, Anne Messenger, Judy Milestone and Janet Moore.
Many men would agree that “All issues are women’s issues”, and a group 26 pioneering American women have come to Cambodia to draw a more positive light to the statement.
“Women are on the frontline of change,” says Janet McKinley, one of the group, who collectively call themselves Among Women. “Where there are women you find will leaders. One thing we agree on is all issues are women’s issues. Whether it is human trafficking or climate change.”
The women all graduated from one of seven liberal arts colleges in America known as the Seven Sisters.
“The idea of Among Women was to create a process where we could connect with empowered women all around the world,” another member Judy Milestone says.
The group formed in 2003 and has since visited Jordon, South Africa and India. This is their first trip to Cambodia.
“We meet with women who have influence, and talk with them about issues of common concern across the board from economic changes and personal changes, to the changing notion of what a woman is and to share these experiences in an informal but informed way,” Milestone says.
After five days of meeting with women in Phnom Penh they headed for Siem Reap on January 12 for four nights.
Janet Moore, a renowned travel agent based in California who specialises in the Middle East and Asian travels, helped organise the trip.
“It’s a dialogue, a two-way expression. By engaging and having these discussions with women we meet they are gaining and learning from us as much as we are from them,” she says.
Milestone says, “History has shown that changing the status of women in a country is one of the first building blocks to changing a country. Men are very good at talking about policies with each other at some distance from reality. Women just cut right through it. That’s one of the reasons that this woman thing is so successful because you can get to the heart of things.”
Sarah Messenger joined Among Women with her mother, Anne.
“What’s actually struck me the most is on every tour we’ve been on, I have seen more commonalities between women across the globe than differences,” she says.
Sarah’s mother says the trip was also to raise awareness of Cambodian life to her network group back home.
“They think Cambodia is this teensy tiny, poor, almost a throw away country,” Anne says.
“I am very active in social media. Part of my task, to my utter joy, is sharing this trip and taking along my 800 and something Facebook friends and 2,000 and something Twitter followers. Those people are learning that Cambodia is way beyond four terrible years in the 1970s. I am going to tell a different story about Cambodia.”
The women will wrap up their journey with two nights in Sihanoukville, where they will decide if there are any projects they would like to be involved in.