In the past, a woman was just a daughter, wife, and mother who would spend her life taking care of her parents, her husband (and her husband’s parents and her children to cook them food, wash clothes, and sometimes earn income to feed all the members of her family. She has no time to think about herself, her health, her beauty, and her value and potential as equal to men, who make most of the decisions involving politics and protect the country. Nowadays, women can be powerful and work as decision makers at country level. However, women still remain in struggle and are threatened during their mission as politicians, as this position is so completely assaulting on their personal security.
Mrs Mu Sochua, 57 years old, is not only a mother of one daughter, but she is also a popular female politician in Cambodia. When she was aged 53, she became a female opposition parliamentarian at the Cambodian National Assembly. She was an adviser for women’s affairs to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and later on she won a national election to be a member of the Parliamentary FUNCINPEC Party and at the same time she was elected to be a minister of women’s affairs for 6 years. Currently, she is joined with Samrainsy Party (SRP) to fight for human rights and against corruption in the government for a better Cambodia. In this party, she is in an especially strong position as women swing to promote other women in politics.
In 1972, she moved to live in the United States because there was a war and genocide in her native country. She got married to American man. After 18 years, she left the land of opportunity where she enjoyed harmony and a modern life style to return to her beautiful homeland, Cambodia, to be an activist, for women and democracy, and to protect women from violation and sexual abuse, “I left my war-torn country as a young adolescent and returned 18 years later as a mother and an activist, working with women’s networks and human rights organizations to promote peace and to include strong provisions in the 1993 Constitution to protect the human rights of women…I have been tirelessly dedicated to this cause ever since.”
Mu Sochua is considered to be the most strong, brave, hardworking leader among Cambodian women leaders. She left her work in the government where she found it difficult to express her opinions and protect victims who were abused by powerful high ranking officials or people, affected by governments’ economic land concession. Since she has joined with the opposition SRP, she has been challenged by many struggles in her work such as a law suit with the Prime Minister that was taken up to the Supreme Court and finally, she was fined to pay for Hun Sen’s compensation. She was barred from attending seminars of government with private sectors and donors. She was also not allowed to use NA conference meeting room to meet up with financial stakeholders.
Lately, she has been threatened from the local authorities (the ruling party), and they are not allowing her to continue educating people at grassroots level about information related to health and voter registration in their villages. She is normally faced with military and arms during demonstrations with protestors, while she works finding justice for garment workers and maids working abroad, and protesting with minority around land conflict etc.
Another challenges for her is that sometimes during the National Assembly session, Mu Sochua was not allowed by the Session President to express her concern over the draft law based on reason that she had repeated the same thing as she already mentioned in previous sessions. This limits her time to speak, because the NA has so many articles left to discuss so she only gets a few minutes to talk.
However, no matter how big the barriers are, she does not care about those and she tries to convince herself to stay calm, to move forward, and to think about a long future. She does not really worry about her safety, and she pursuit and her vision to help women won’t change. She declared that even when she met with such challenges, she didn’t consider the barrier to her work, “I don’t care about my safety. I don’t think it is a big challenge for me. More than once I have come face to face with armed police and military. I have to be strong and have a stable mind” Mu Sochua said.
She argues that only women are strong enough to deal with their own life issues, other women’s issues and their country’s issues. She loves to see Cambodian women have more numbers from year to year in the government sector from Parliament to village chief level. Only women can understand about women’s feelings, so they can prevent injustice and violence again women in the community. It is very good to have lots of women working in public sectors she added, “My strategy for self-protection is to remain vocal, visible and high profile. I strongly believe in people’s participation and in giving women a fair share of development. This can only happen when the government demonstrates a strong political will to develop and implement policies that create special measures and opportunities for women to gain a fair share of development. Discrimination and violence against women can be addressed when society as a whole values women as human beings and as equal partners. As a woman leader I lead with the strong belief that women bring stability and peace, at home, in their communities and for the nation. I feel most satisfied when the women’s networks move together, create a critical mass and gain political space.”
The Parliamentarian Mu Sochua can pass through her difficulties because of her strong commitments like - Be strong in any circumstances - Do not have fear. We cannot protect others if we ourselves are weak - Have positive thinking in promoting democracy which is not always easy. It needs a strong and sustainable commitment. - Power and position is not the priority to work in Politics, but serving people with justice is the main thing that a good leader should keep in mind. - Keep thinking it is not normal for women to get in jail, facing with police and arm force. - Have support from your party, husband, family, and society.
She mentions that those who want to be politicians may also face her challenges and experience what she has experienced, to please think about fighting for justice, which is only thing can push us to move forward.
All in all, she encourages all women to be proud of themselves, and to make a strong stand. Women are very strong with high value. Women should not talk themselves down and feel hopeless. No matter where they are from, if different backgrounds, or even if they are sexual workers, beer promotion girls, living in poor conditions and working in lower fields, they are still significant and can be brave for their family and society.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.Voices of Our Future 2012 Assignment: Profiles