By Holly Roberston and Len Leng
Phnom Penh, November 28, 2017
The forcible removal of Cambodians from their homes has created a subclass of the dispossessed, with hundreds of thousands affected by conflicts over land. But the suffering endured by the mostly poor evictees, usually moved on to make way for corporate interests, has had an unintended side-effect: galvanising a growing wave of female Cambodian activists.
The women of Boeung Kak lake, whose noisy and vibrant protests on the streets of Phnom Penh have seen them arrested multiple times, are perhaps the best known, with news of the deal to fill in the lake and seize residents’ land resonating in media outlets around the globe. Yet they are far from alone: Cambodian women regularly spearhead land rights demonstrations, and in recent years some have even parlayed their newfound activism into entering the political sphere.
“Persisting cultural beliefs about the traditional role of Khmer women as caregivers and homemakers mean that land conflict, and the lack of income it often brings, has a disproportionate impact on women,” Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) executive director Chak Sopheap said earlier this year, “with the result that they are often the ones motivated to engage in activism on behalf of their community.”
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