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Kampong Speu's disabled women lead battle for equality

Kampong Speu's disabled women lead battle for equality

Handicapped women in Kampong Speu are asking for national and international organizations

to assist establishing an "Organization for Handicapped Women" to support

handicapped and disabled women in Cambodia to find work and other problems as well.

Handicapped women are often stigmatized by both men and women and have difficulty

finding jobs because of their disability.

There is currently one forum for disabled women in Kampong Speu. However, this must

also cater for nearly 650 in four neighbouring districts in Kampong Speu: Samroang

Tong, Chbar Morn, Oudong and Kong Pisei, and does not have the means of finding jobs

for the women.

Khuon Samin is chief of the self-help union in Samroang Tong district in Kampong

Speu. Disabled herself, she is pushing strongly for the organization. "If there

is an organization for disabled women, it will be easier for disabled women to find

jobs and to help solve each other's problems as well.

She is confident the organization can get established once national and international

organizations realize the need."

Samin has had no feelings in her legs for 28 years. In 1976 a doctor gave her an

injection after giving birth that made her legs go numb. She never recovered feeling.

Since then she has been physically and emotionally abused. In 1985, another villager

stabbed her in both shoulders with a bayonet. Because of her handicap she couldn't

escape or fight.

Her family and people in the local community also looked down on her. "Not only

my villagers, but also my daughter-in-law rarely talks with me. I feel pain not only

in my body, but my mind as well," she says.

In 1996 she got a job in the self-help group and was later promoted to her current

position. After she got the job, she said villagers began to admire her. "Right

now, I feel very hopeful in my life and I want other disabled women to become like

me."

The British-based Action on Disability and Development is one organization to have

already offered support to the handicapped women. It was behind the formation of

the forum in Kampong Speu and also supports ten organizations for handicapped people

in Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Kandal, Svay Rieng and Phnom Penh. Kampong Speu

would become the first organization strictly for handicapped women.

ADD plans to set up handicapped women's forums in other provinces if there is enough

demand. The forum workers collect all the information from the disabled women who

have problems such as in their families or in their communities, and then raise those

problems at the forum meeting to solve them.

"I want the Cambodian government to set up the law stating that handicapped

women have the same rights as the normal women as soon as possible," said Samin.

"I am asking the government to allow handicapped women to nominate their own

parliamentarian to represent them."

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