By Hun Sovadhanak
Toun Ty, 12, at Leok Cheas Primary School in Preah Damrey commune, Kampong Thom
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Hun Sovadhanak
Toun Ty’s hand is one of the first to shoot into the air, holding his chalkboard proudly aloft. It's early morning at Leok Cheas Primary School in Preah Damrey commune, Kampong Thom Province, and Grade 4 students are eagerly tackling maths problems on their individual chalkboards. Their teacher, Ms. Lyn, invites Ty to the front of the class to show his fellow students how he solved the exercise. Ty’s grandmother, Prum Yeap, never thought she would see her grandson flourish in school. This is because Ty has a disability that affects his mobility.
Ms. Prum recalls her feelings when she first discovered that Ty has one leg that is not fully developed: “In all my life, people with disabilities could not study further and they always ended up having to beg to survive. I felt sorry and hopeless when I saw my grandson like this.”
Established in 2011 in all communes across the country, the Commune Committees for Women and Children (CCWCs) are local bodies that play an important role both in increasing community awareness on social issues, such as disability, and in tackling discrimination. CCWC members met with Ms. Prum to encourage her to send Ty to primary school. Every day she would take Ty to and from school by bicycle. Soon enough, he was also catching a ride on the bicycles of his new school friends.
Toun Ty, 12, with his grandmother and friends in Preah Damrey commune, Kampong Thom
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/HUN Sovadhanak
With support from UNICEF, the CCWC of Preah Damrey commune provides social services for families in response to the needs of the women, children and other vulnerable groups in the commune.
This is done with social service mapping (SSM). Piloted by UNICEF across Cambodia in 2009, this is a tool that enables the CCWC to identify the most vulnerable households in the community through participatory meetings with community members, so that it can support these households with the services they need the most (such as access to pre-school or birth certificates).
Maps are developed by villagers and show village resources, such as education, health and sanitation facilities, water sources, community rice banks and pagodas. Each village has a map and the commune has maps from all villages. After developing these maps, it is possible to identify the households in need of assistance.
Participation has an important role in the SSM exercise: citizens and local officials share understanding over the social services available and come up with effective strategies to improve service delivery in their community.
Through SSM, hundreds of vulnerable families in Preah Damrey have been provided with water filters, latrines and school supplies. Twenty four pregnant women have been referred to health facilities, to ensure that they give birth at a health centre with trained medical staff. Water containers and soap for handwashing have been provided at six primary schools in the commune.
Ty continues to study hard and is thriving in school. His teacher says he is an excellent pupil and “in the top ten of his class.” Ty says, "I am very happy. I will try my best to study hard to remain an outstanding student. I am good at maths and Khmer literature. I want to learn English as well, since English is good for communication and future employment." Ty also has dreams for the future. When asked what job he wants to do when he grows up, he says, “a teacher or a motorcycle mechanic.”