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Global Feminist Profile: Mu Sochua

April 19, 2010

Global Feminist Profiles highlights feminist leaders all over the world who are creating change and empowering their countrywomen to demand equality.

Image Credit: Mu Sochua National Website, Mu Sochua waves at supporters

I strongly believe in people’s participation and in giving women a fair share of development. This can only happen when the government demonstrates a strong political will to develop and implement policies that create special measures and opportunities for women to gain a fair share of development. Discrimination and violence against women can be addressed when society as a whole values women as human beings and as equal partners. As a woman leader I lead with the strong belief that women bring stability and peace, at home, in their communities and for the nation. I feel most satisfied when the women’s networks move together, create a critical mass and gain political space.

In 2005, Mu Sochua was one of 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and she has received numerous awards for her human rights work.  In 1998, Mu Sochua became a member of her parliament, after having returned in 1989 from 18 years of exile. She was only 1 of two women in power there.

War and genocide took me away from my native Cambodia when I had just completed high school, in 1972. War exploded in addition to genocide from 1975 to 1979. In just three years, over one million lives were lost. The green rice fields of Cambodia became killing fields. Armed conflict continued until the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1991.

I left Cambodia as a young adolescent and returned as a mother and an activist, working with women’s networks and human rights organizations to promote peace and to include strong provisions in the 1993 Constitution to protect the human rights of women.

In 1998, she was selected to serve as Adviser on women’s affairs to the primer minister.

In 1998, I ran for a parliamentary seat in the North West of Cambodia, the most devastated region, and won. The same year, I became Minister of Women and Veterans’ Affairs — as one of only 2 women to join the cabinet.

I declined a ministerial post in the next government, joining the opposition party instead, and joining forces with Cambodian democrats to fight corruption and government oppressions.

As a minister, I proposed the draft law on domestic violence in Parliament, negotiated an international agreement with Thailand to curtail human trafficking in Southeast Asia, and launched a campaign to engage NGOs, law enforcement officials, and rural women in a national dialogue.

Sochua relinquished her position to join the Sam Rainsy party, the lead opposition party in Cambodia, she felt corruption and greed kept Cambodian women back.

Having joined the opposition party, my focus has been strongly on democracy and human rights. I currently advise a wide network of civil society groups and trade unions on strategies to widen space for democracy.

According to the Huffington Post, “Mu Sochua wants to improve Cambodia’s economy – with the help of Cambodia’s women:

My efforts have always been for long-term development which includes development of human resources for Cambodia, where most of our teachers, doctors, judges were killed during the Khmer Rouge years.

More than once I have come face to face with armed police and military. My strategy for self-protection is to remain vocal, visible and high profile.

I strongly believe in people’s participation and in giving women a fair share of development. This can only happen when the government demonstrates a strong political will to develop and implement policies that create special measures and opportunities for women to gain a fair share of development. Discrimination and violence against women can be addressed when society as a whole values women as human beings and as equal partners. As a woman leader I lead with the strong belief that women bring stability and peace, at home, in their communities and for the nation. I feel most satisfied when the women’s networks move together, create a critical mass and gain political space.

Mu Sochua is an incredible women who has been changing her country one step at a time.  In 2009, she received Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the Eleanor Roosevelt Project at the George Washington University for Leadership in Human Rights.  She was also awarded an Honorary PHD in Law from Guelph University, Canada, in recognition of her justice and human rights work (Southeastern Globe Magazine, December 2008).

With her accomplishments comes passion for humans rights and social justice. According to The Huffington Post, “Her political issues are both specific and universal:

Human Rights of Women. She campaigns widely to defend the human rights of women through the adoption and full implementation of legislation against gender-based violence.

Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children. She travels around the country to sensitize villagers to the danger of trafficking, pursues the prosecution of traffickers through a strong network of local organizations, and leads the fight against corruption of officials.

Women in Politics. She is the principal leader of the women’s movement for transformative leadership, campaigning widely for legislation and policies to promote women’s participation and positions in decision-making.

The Urban Poor. She advocates for the rights of squatters to improve their living conditions and gain lease-hold rights to land. She also supports the development of communities for squatters with schools, health centers, sanitation, and access to employment.

Land Rights. She advocates for the rights of tenants in her constituency of Kampot and throughout Cambodia, investigating evictions and land-grabbing first-hand, listening to villagers’ stories, and supporting formal complaints.

Mu Sochua recieves Eleanor Roosevelt Award, Image Credit: Mu Sochua National Website

In March 2009, She returned to Cambodia, even with the possibility of imprisonment  and arrest. She has been chosen to receive numerous awards, but with the recent news of possible imprisonment, many are unsure if she will be able to accept them. She is a human rights advocate, a mother of 3, and an inspiration to women who are empowered to fight against gender-based violence in their prospective countries.

To learn more about Mu Sochua and all of her incredible work, please click here.

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