Participation rights in Cambodia are less practiced when these conflict with traditional values. Children are consistently reporting low rates of decision making power/influence in decisions that affect their lives. Children are not generally taught to express their views within the family and within the school environment. The participation of children within the community has been very low in Cambodia. Amongst the poorest families, few are engaged in village or commune planning processes, many who are limited by poor literacy/numeracy skills, do not have the capacity or confidence to participate in community activities and planning processes. Women are amongst the most excluded from community development processes.
Most rural families in Cambodia are highly hierarchical and patriarchal, with the younger members expected to respect their elders. Important decisions such as arranged marriages, are typically made by parents after consulting with the older members of the family. The notion of social empowerment for children may be in conflict with traditions and social norms and could be regarded as a form of disobedience or lack of respect for elders. Encouraging children to express their views may even be considered threatening for a society that is still healing from the Khmer Rouge period, which destroyed families.
The Social Empowerment strategic goal addresses the following Convention on the Rights of the Child articles that are related to participation.
Increase opportunities for more children and families to participate in local planning, decision making processes and community initiatives
- Upgrade the self-help savings groups to make loans more accessible
- Expand the livestock banks e.g. cow bank following a review to ensure the viability of the program as an income source for COCD.
- Increase opportunities for young people and families to access vital resources e.g. farming equipment, expert technical advice
- Plan and facilitate economic empowerment activities that consider industry labour market / workforce gaps and benefit from business opportunities
Improve the confidence, skills and knowledge of more children and families to actively participate in family and community-based planning and decision making
- Enhance the learning and development program for self-help groups in the areas of planning, poverty analysis, leadership.
- Increase children’s skills and confidence through children councils, child clubs and other initiatives.
Increase the relevance of community and local authority development plans in relation to the stated priorities of the community, especially children.
- Advocate for and build the knowledge and skills of local authorities to engage community, child and youth participation in the development planning process.
- In collaboration with local authorities, develop and trial planning and decision -making processes that formally include the participation of children and their families.