Saturday, July 15, 2017

Boosting the power of community members to help one-another

By Mariko Yamaguchi

Joint monitoring between Commune Office and UNICEF Community Development team
is conducted by Vany Kong, UNICEF officer and Ms. Tran Mik,
CCWC focal point in Cha Ung Commune.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2017/Mariko Yamaguchi 

Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, June 2017 – A grassroots approach is putting more power into the hands of community workers to help them improve the lives of marginalized and impoverished families.

One such community is Cha Ung Commune in Ochum District which is situated 540km from the capital Phnom Penh and 25km for the nearest provincial town.

This community has long suffered from its geographical remoteness and an associated deficit in healthcare and schools; a limited knowledge among its people about their fundamental rights; and cultural barriers to obtaining some of these rights, which may be attributed to some unique ethnic influences within the local populace.

A lack of knowledge regarding issues such as health and education access and civic registration is a major barrier to development gains. For example, failure to register a child at birth denies them of an official existence – which puts them at risk of exploitation, denial of services, and overall a precarious future.

Tran Mik, a focal point for the Commune Committee for Women and Children (CCWC), cited the case of a pregnant woman who died on her way to a clinic from her home in a remote area, because of difficult road accessibility and the absence of a local health facility to provide life-saving treatment.

“People used to be too shy to go to a health facility and were not active to go for the civil registration [birth registration process],” Tran said.

However, since 2011 UNICEF has been supporting Ochum District to strengthen commune capacity to identify the most vulnerable women and children, and deliver appropriate social services and support with equity.

It has been providing training activities to enhance the capacity of the sub-national authority (SNA) to promote and execute inclusive community planning, and to deliver social services relevant to early childhood development (ECD).

It has also supported communities through social service mapping (SSM) to chart households with social-related risks and vulnerabilities, including households with family members who have disabilities.

This information is used to inform commune planning and budgeting for social service delivery.

A CCWC meeting in Cha Ung Commune is chaired by Pol Oy, commune chief (centre).©UNICEF Cambodia/2017/Mariko Yamaguchi 

Consequently, Cha Ung Commune and its representatives have demonstrated increased commitment to consulting citizens in planning, budgeting and targeting delivery of essential social services and support to vulnerable households.

This impact is most visible in improved access to civic registration, safe water, clean latrines, health facilities, pre-schools and enhanced knowledge among the local community.

“We’ve learnt a lot through training on social service with equity on planning and budgeting such as on the Commune Investment Programme (CIP) and the Commune Development Plan (CDP)”, said Tran, who is highly motivated to work on expanding social service implementation.

She expressed great pride in people’s behaviour change within her commune. “We have invested a lot in raising awareness and as a result, there have been positive changes in people’s behaviour such as seeking health services, civil registration and early childhood education (ECE).

“Now, more people go to health facilities for antenatal care, postnatal care and delivery [at health centres] and birth and marriage registration has greatly increased.” “We have three community pre-schools (CPS) in three villages with about 55 students enrolled and more and more children have started to go to lower secondary schools.”

Cha Van shows the birth certificate for his daughter Ke Chan Trok.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2017/Mariko Yamaguchi

Tran also emphasized a positive change in people’s perception towards education. She enthusiastically explained about the potential of youth engagement.

“Behaviour change is not always easy, but due to migration’s influence, the youth are more open to behaviour change than the old generation.” This heightened motivation of SNA personnel provides great hope for the inclusive development of the community.

Cha Ung Commune has made special efforts to support vulnerable families, especially those with family members who have disabilities.

Through the 2016 commune budget, it supported 17 vulnerable families, of which two have family members with disabilities. The budget provided the families with staple items such as rice, tinned fish, cooking oil, blankets, mats and mosquito nets.

With the current 2017 budget, the commune plans to continue food support to five vulnerable families per village, including those with children who have disabilities, across a total of five villages.

One of the beneficiaries of this intervention is six-year-old Ke Chan Trok. She has had physical and intellectual disabilities since birth.

With the commune’s support, her birth has been registered and she has been provided with a walking device from the National Centre for Disabled Persons (NCDP), with financial support from UNICEF.

The family also has a 20-year-old child with a physical disability, Cha Van expressed appreciation for the support his children have received from the commune.

“I’m grateful for all of their support and their consideration for poor families like us,” he said.

CCWC focal point Tran has delivered this help to a number of vulnerable families and she will build on this proactive action to widen the development reach of her committee.

“As part of this work, I learnt how to identify and support vulnerable families through the training on ECD,” she said.

The success of this decentralized approach, in which communes help ensure essential social services are provided to marginalized and vulnerable children and their families, reinforces the notion that members of the local community are in the best position to help one another.

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