In the rural Cambodian village of Sovanna Baitong, where Wildlife Alliance’s Community Agriculture Development Project is located, 187 families have been provided the tools to increase their household income in ways that are sustainable for both their families and the environment they used to destroy. What is remarkable about this community however, is the indispensable role that women have come to play in the community at-large.
In many families women are managing their household, determining what crops to grow during which season and what techniques to use. Outside of their homes, women hold the majority of the leadership positions in the community. Of the 10 senior positions on the Agriculture Association – the body of community members that manages life in the village – 7 are held by women. They run such groups as the Marketing Group, which sets prices for village goods in local markets; the Credit group, which manages the Community Fund and loans to villagers; and the Education group, which oversees educational facilities and curricula in the community. That group even facilitated the creation of a preschool in the last year. Many of the major mechanisms of village society are in the hands of these women. Women have also created small enterprises outside of the agricultural pursuits of their homes. Small businesses such as bread-making and massage therapy have been initiated by women and have created a diversity of activity and increase in income for the whole community. Furthermore, with the increased educational opportunities available to children in Sovanna Baitong, the next generation of women is being groomed for leadership.
It is important that these women – formerly landless, many uneducated – find empowerment through their community in Sovanna Baitong. Ensuring their agency in the activities of the community ensures the success of the project and the future of these families.
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