Holding governments accountable for gender-based violence in Cambodia
Gender-based violence, specifically violence against women (VAW) is one of the leading causes of death of women between the ages of 19 and 44 globally. This figure is generally higher in countries where women’s rights are not sufficiently guaranteed or respected.
International instruments have set out governments’ obligations to prevent and respond to VAW. Many countries enacted special legislation or established new divisions focused on VAW, but the results are not good enough. Commitments go unmet as national prevention and response mechanisms are weak, uncoordinated and often under-resourced. The consequences for women can be fatal. Unless governments are held accountable for promises to prevent and eradicate VAW, prosecute perpetrators and provide adequate support for survivors, the situation will not change.
This project will empower women’s organisations in Cambodia to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to monitor government prevention efforts and responses to VAW; to aggregate and analyse data that captures these efforts and to produce evidence that can be used to put pressure on the Cambodian government to deliver on its promises to combat and eliminate violence against women. The project aims to replicate the Africatti project in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo in a different cultural context. We anticipate that the results of this project will indicate the global applicability of the approach.
The capacity of women’s rights organisations to use ICTs to monitor the implementation of the country’s National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and other commitments will be strengthened through the project. This will in turn contribute towards a more active citizenry that are able to hold the government accountable to its commitments, promote transparency, and in this way contribute towards the country’s achieving the country’s developmental goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Greater public awareness of both the incidence of VAW as well as governments’ responses to it as a result of the project will also stimulate increased focus on the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of support and response mechanisms for victims and survivors of VAW. The evidence building aspect of the project is a critical part of building a public discourse on government accountability to meeting its development goals.
The Open Institute (OI), APC member in Cambodia, will be the lead implementing partner in Cambodia and will be responsible for the coordination of all in-country activities. OI works to ensure that the benefits of technology for social and economic change are advanced in Cambodia. Its women’s programme promotes the use of technology for gender equality. Building on partnerships established since 2009 through a recent APC project that worked with women’s rights organisations to strengthen their use of ICTs to end VAW, they will mobilise local frontline service organisations and their networks to participate in the project.
OI’s primary partner will be the National League of Commune/Sangkat (NLC/S), a network of local authorities throughout the country. NLC/S supports a network of 1621 local councils in Cambodia to promote effective, sustainable, transparent, accountable and self-reliant local governance. NCL/S conducts an annual survey with the Ministry of Planning as part of work to ensure responsiveness of local councils to the needs of citizens. The area of VAW is covered in this survey.
The Commune Committee for Women and Children (CCWC) is an advisory sub-committee to the Commune Council and supports the Council to implement government policy and other tasks related to women and children’s issues. Its role is to recommend, advocate, coordinate, monitor and report, to ensure women and children receive appropriate quality services in the social and economic sectors.
Another key partner is the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. OI is coordinating the Ministry’s national Gender Observatory established as part of their efforts to prevent and respond to VAW.
Evidence gathered by Amnesty International in 2010 suggests that rape is increasing and that survivors have poor access to medical services and counselling.
The timing of the project is also significant. As part of efforts to meet its Millenium Development Goal targets, the Cambodian Ministry of Women’s Affairs has set up a Gender Observatory. Eliminating VAW is one of their priorities and they have developed a National Plan to Prevent VAW. This Plan sets out a policy and strategy to develop support services for women victims to access effective and fair social and legal services.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has also developed its third five-year strategic plan – the Neary Rattanak III – which among other things aims to ensure legal protection from violence and sexual and labour exploitation, promote change in attitudes and behaviours that discriminate against women and address barriers in order for women to access and claim their right to fully participate and benefit from economic and social development, also as decision-makers.