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Gender Budgeting Reshaped Local Spending

In the remote commune of Talou, Pursat Province, Cambodia, Mrs. Chhoun Srey Neang is reshaping the way local governance looks at budgeting. Dedicated to her community, this 37-year-old commune councilor has advocated for budgets that are fair and meet everyone's needs.

As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, Srey Neang's path wasn't an easy one. Initially, she faced self-doubt about her own abilities, a common challenge for those underrepresented in their professions. She started her career as a village volunteer for the Tonle Sap Disaster Risks Management Project in 2011 and became a commune assistant in 2016. At that time, she was very shy and had difficulty engaging with locals, especially at public events.

Empowerment Through Partnership

Fearing she couldn't perform as well as her male counterparts, she was reluctant to lead. However, her perspective changed after participating in a project supported by Diakonia through the Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC) in 2017. This partnership gradually enhanced her understanding of gender dynamics, leadership, facilitation skills, and the legal aspects of her role. "I practiced the knowledge that I learned from GADC. I have been involved in the commune core groups (men and women), including GADC field staff, to perform door-to-door visits, village meetings, and intervene in gender-based violence (GBV) and rape cases," she said.

This newfound knowledge empowered Srey Neang to take action, becoming an advocate for gender-responsive budgeting, which aims to address gender inequalities and the differing needs of women and men through how government funds are allocated and spent. She also pushed for other inclusive policies. Consequently, Srey Neang was invited to share her experiences at the GADC-organized International Women's Rights Day Celebration 2023, and 2024 National Workshop on Gender Responsive Budget, inspiring others with her commitment.

Her family's support has been crucial. "My spouse handles household duties well, which allows me to focus on my responsibilities at the commune office. GADC's men's engagement program helped transform gender roles in our family. Addressing the root causes that prevent women from taking on leadership roles is important" she shared.

"GADC's men's engagement program helped transform gender roles in our family. Addressing the root causes that prevent women from taking on leadership roles is important."

Mrs. Chhoun Srey Neang

Advocacy in Action

She worked tirelessly to ensure that the commune budget was utilized responsibly and transparently, prioritizing social services, infrastructure development, and the interests of the local community. Her colleagues also supported her involvement in decision-making processes related to gender-responsive budgeting, leading to infrastructure improvements like wheelchair-accessible commune office facilities​.

One of her proudest achievements was convincing the commune councilors to allocate 17% of the total annual budget for social work, up from the mandated 10%. The increased social work budget addressed various needs of marginalized groups in the community. She also ensured that the infrastructure budget was informed by the diverse voices and requirements of marginalized groups, including but not limited to gender-related concerns.

Additionally, she collaborated with GADC staff to support young female interns, nurturing the next generation of leaders and ensuring that more women had a voice in local governance, despite the current male-dominated environment.

Fair Budgeting, Inclusive Growth

Reflecting on her efforts, Srey Neang acknowledged her strong ties with the community and her dedication to ensuring no one was left behind. She remained firmly committed to allocating the commune budget in a way that is fair and beneficial for everyone.

"I strongly encourage the commune councilors to use the gender-responsive budget inclusively and to always serve the citizens honestly," she said. These words echoed the resolve that had carried her this far on her remarkable, transformative path.

About Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC)

Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC) is a non-profit organisation that advances gender equality and empowers diverse women in Cambodia. GADC works to break gender barriers through feminist education, policy advocacy, men’s engagement, and community engagement. They provide training, space, empowerment, and support to help people challenge traditional gender roles and create a fairer society. Diakonia has provided core funding to GADC and partnered with the organisation since 2014.

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Wanweena Tangsathianraphap

Regional Communication Officer Asia

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Diakonia in Cambodia

In Cambodia, Diakonia works with local civil society organizations and directly with communities, training people to become aware of and defend their rights. Our focus areas are human rights, democracy, gender equality, good governance, and social and economic justice.

Through the work of Diakonia and our partner organizations, hundreds of thousands of people have become aware of their human rights. By encouraging people to organise themselves, a successful contribution to the general development of the community has been made.