Feature Story

Fostering an understandable and respectful interaction within family

14 July 2017

Kampong Cham: With physical violence rate of 34%, Kampong Cham province has the second highest prevalence rate of domestic violence in Cambodia (https://goo.gl/mHqtVx). Sadly, one out of five Cambodian women has experienced physical violence at least once in their lifetime since the age of 15.

Sitting shyly in a community session held in Samraung commune, Kampong Cham province, an elderly lady with the other participants recalls what she has gone through in the past. At the age of over 40, she got married to a widower who had 3 children from his previous marriage. Her husband spent a lot of time drinking and going out with his friends.

“Frequently, he comes home drunk and blasts his anger toward me when I ask his whereabouts or talk about his alcoholic behaviour,” says Kimchheang hesitantly.

Some women find a source of pride in their married lives. Heng Chanthorn is one among these lucky women. She has been married to Mr Vorn Chanthy for more than 10 years, they have 3 children and live a happy life together.

“Who knows what will happen in the future,” says Chanthorn humbly as she walks toward her husband, who has just brought a basket of fish he caught from a lake west of the village. 

Photo: Heng Chanthorn (center, in yellow t-shirt, participates in a small group exercise organized for caregivers by local facilitators.

 

Changing the long held social norms and behavioural family patterns:

In Cambodia, cultural and social norms remain strongly rooted in many people’s mindsets. Astonishingly, half of Cambodian women who were interviewed believe that violence against women is acceptable and that there are times when a woman deserves to be beaten (https://goo.gl/nhzRYw).

“After returning from the first weekend session, I told my husband about what we discussed. He seemed uninterested and kept quiet,” laments Kimchheang.

As Kimchheang continues sharing her experience from the start of her participation in the primary prevention of domestic violence programme, she expresses high satisfaction with the topics discussed from week to week.

“These days, my husband doesn’t drink alcohol and he has shared household chores frequently. Although he doesn’t join the sessions, he tells me to come every weekend,” comments Kimchheang. 

 

Photo: Ms Ouk Kimchheang, 52 year-old, sharing her life experience during a community session held in Samraung commune.

Likewise, Chan Nary, 33 year-old, who is one regular participants in Sro Ngè commune explains that this community session is really beneficial to her and the entire family.

“I now can manage my temper much better when communicating with my children. I listen to their problems more attentively,” describes Nary, who has three adolescent children.

She goes on to explain that, unlike before, she analyses causes and effects together with her husband and children.

Bringing happier relationships:

Several studies find that a communication-based approach is an effective model of addressing behavioural family patterns and it has historically been a common tactic used by therapists (https://goo.gl/HXEx1A).

The model helps involved parties to diagnose an issue on time, so it is faster to find solutions earlier to aid family relationships.

A 52 year-old participant happily emphasizes “I am very grateful to the team (Ministry of Women’s Affairs and UNFPA) for giving me the opportunity to attend this programme.” Kimchheang is one of the caregivers attending the session every weekend.

Parents and caregivers have received a series of 12 sessions from local facilitators who had received intensive training on how to effectively facilitate workshops for community people prior to each session.

Since September 2016, in partnership with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, UNFPA and the Partner4Prevention programme have supported a series of community sessions to change ways of perceiving gender equality and preventing domestic violence in five communes in Kampong Cham province including Samraung, Thmor Poun, Boeung Nay, Sro Nge and So Sen. The community sessions are divided into two different groups: one for caregivers and one for adolescents.

“I find the programme very interesting and what I have learned at the weekend sessions has helped me to change the ways in which I communicate with my husband and children,” expresses Chanthorn gleefully.

Twofold impact:

UNFPA and partners have trained local facilitators about violence against women and how strengthening the links between adolescents and caregivers can help prevent violence in their family and community. There is a manual instructing step-by-step guides in facilitating each session for parents and caregivers.

The content of the manual for caregivers consists of 12 lessons such as understanding adolescents’ behaviour, building trust between caregivers and adolescents, problem solving, coping with stress and understanding and supporting teenagers, promoting positive behaviour, communication and conflict resolution, and dealing with behavioural problems.   

As facilitators are selected from community people and some of them have experienced unhealthy family relationships or even violence, this pilot programme is also beneficial to them.

 

Photo: Sor Bunthat, community facilitator in Boeung Nay commune in Kampong Cham province.

 

“I am more confident to facilitate the course, than I was 6 months ago” says Kunthea smilingly. “Moreover, I’ve changed in the way that I talk to my kids and husband. I would like to be a role model in my community”. She is a facilitator at Samraung commune, the mother of 4 children and finds her volunteering work deeply inspiring.

Sor Bunthat, 35 years old, is a farmer and the father of two children, aged 2 and 12. He is one of the facilitators in Boeung Nay commune. “My work not only contributes to preventing domestic violence in my community, but it also helps me to improve my own interactions with my children.”

Similarly, Suong Thach, one among a few outstanding facilitators in the community of Sro Ngè, complements on the positive change in her community and her own family. “I am so excited to see the change in people’s attitudes. People use nicer words for their daily communication,” stresses Thach confidently. “I now know how to control my anger when I face a frustrating situation.”

Photo: Nuon Kunthea, community facilitator coordinates a weekend session for caregivers in Samraung commune in Prey Chhor district.

This pilot initiative, supporting Adolescent’s development  and their ability to build healthy and happy relationships, is part of a programme for the primary prevention of violence against women and girls in Asia and the Pacific, implemented by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs with technical and financial support from UNFPA and UNV and Partners4Prevention.

The programme has trained 30 community facilitators to enable them run a series of sessions on building healthy and happy relationships in the family and preventing domestic violence for caregivers and adolescents groups over the past 8 months. The programme has reached 125 caregivers and 125 adolescents in these five communes.

“I am so excited to see the moving changes on both participants and facilitators. They are more confident to share their experience and actively discuss their problems in the sessions”, remarks Sean Chanthorn, Programme Coordinator of Provincial Department of Women’s Affairs. “To maintain this momentum, we will include monitoring trips in our programme strategy and give meaningful support to facilitators in the future,” Chanthorn commits enthusiastically. 

 

Photo: Chanthorn Sean, Programme Coordinator of Provincial Department of Women’s Affairs gives a guiding session for caregivers in Prey Chhor district.