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Domestic violence dips as couples share work

A family of farmers mills rice in Battambang. A family-based work program has seen some success at reducing domestic violence and improving economic independence over the past three years.
A family of farmers mills rice in Battambang. A family-based work program has seen some success at reducing domestic violence and improving economic independence over the past three years. Heng Chivoan

Domestic violence dips as couples share work

A program aimed at relaxing rigid gender norms has cut domestic violence in six communities, a gender equity NGO said yesterday as it wrapped up its three-year run.

Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC) set out to improve community life by relaxing gender restrictions on the division of labour within hundreds families in two communes each in Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Prey Veng.

According Heng Chinda, a community outreach program manager with GADC, Cambodia’s entrenched gender norms dictate that women are expected to do all the household work, while men are expected to focus on earning. But, with Cambodia’s rapidly changing economy, that isn’t always feasible, which leads to friction.

Chinda said that representatives posted in each participating village sought to mediate domestic disputes and to loosen the hard and fast gender roles within families through education. Over time, Chinda continued, incidents of domestic abuse fell by about half as husbands and wives began to “feel each other’s value”.

Thin Mao, 55, a resident of one of the participating communities, said she and her husband had often fought due to stress arising from the fact that she was both the sole breadwinner and in charge of the household. Once she and her husband began participating in the program, however, the relationship improved, as did others in the village, she said.

“This programme helped to reduce about 60 per cent of the [domestic] violence in my village,” she said in an interview yesterday. “I want the program to come back.”

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