The Wonder Woman, Chu Lan
This story was written by participants of Oxfam’s Mekong Youth Engagement and Storytelling Workshop. Each story provides a local perspective on some of the broader work we do to support communities, including natural resource management, saving for change, women and youth empowerment and bringing communities together.
Chu Lan is not one to hold back her thoughts.
“Whatever you feel you should not keep to yourself, you have to express and stand for yourself, do not stand alone, stand with people,” she said.
A 42-year-old from Kampong Phluk community near the Tonle Sap in Cambodia, Chu Lan is deputy chief of the Community Based Organisation (CBO).
Previously, the women of Kampong Phluk were dominated by their husbands, did not have the ability to make their own decisions financially, and were expected to stay home and raise their children, according to Chu Lan.
From 2009 however, the women of the village started to join workshops and meetings organised by Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), on women’s law and empowerment.
Chu Lan was selected to lead the workshops and from 2009 to 2013, she inspired other women to join the CBO to learn about climate change, and women’s rights laws.
With FACT’s support, she also established a Savings Group, to help ensure the village’s financial security.
The group now consists of 259 members and has been able to save a total of 50 million riel ($12,355 USD)
The saving group uses the money saved to purchase fishing materials and take their children to school and because of the success of the program, husbands are allowing their wives to join the CBO which now has the capacity to ask the government to fund a community fishery program.
The journey to success has not been easy for Chu Lan, but she has always been resilient and persistent.
“Problems will come along the way but if we have a clear goal and stick to it, we will surpass all barriers,” she said.
While they have seen many positive changes, Chu Lan said they still face discrimination from their male counterparts, with one woman being forced to leave the group because of her husband.
Despite this, Chu Lan continues to her work with the female community member’s support.
“If we have a strong leader, we can be as strong as her,” CBO member, Mun Sitha said.
“Men don’t understand women’s issues like women.”