One courageous woman is protecting the forest where she lives in Cambodia. She’s ensuring that future generations can live in peace in this beautiful habitat.
Vansen is one of the most important leaders in her remote community in the Kratie province of Cambodia. The forest she lives in is over 3,600 square kilometres and is home to 200,000 people, spread across different villages. It provides all their needs including building materials, food, and medicine. It’s also central to their culture and spirituality. Her village is so remote that she was unable to attend school as a child.
Over the last 20 years deforestation and illegal land-grabbing has driven more than half a million families from their homes in Cambodia and neighbouring countries. Communities are not protected because laws are weak. Tensions have grown between the communities, governments, and businesses.
In 2000 Vansen decided that she had to do something. She realised that if her community lost their land, they would lose everything. She became a human rights defender and since then she has courageously protected her village. She led patrols to monitor and highlight illegal logging. Things were incredibly difficult because there was so little support. She wasn’t paid and had to find the money for anything she needed. There was no training and a lack of equipment.
That changed when she received training from Cord on all kinds of vital issues, including land rights, forest registration and community mobilization. She also benefited from leadership training along with 20 other women in her region, providing new connections and opportunities.
Cord funding has also meant that Vansen has finally got the equipment she needs. This included cameras, hammocks, boots, raincoats, and fuel.
With this extra support Vansen’s work has become much more effective. When a company began illegal logging near her community, she implemented a three-part plan. One team patrolled the area, photographing and documenting the activity. Another team prepared a petition, collecting villagers’ thumbprints, to send to local authorities. A third team communicated with the people who hold power, including the commune chief and the provincial Governor. All this led to the provincial Governor awarding protective status to Koh Indchey village. As a result, the company stopped their illegal logging in that area.
Vansen is hoping that her example will inspire the next generation. She said,
“if we have women leading the patrols, then I hope more women, including younger women, will join us because they feel safe and motivated.”
Donate today and help more women like Vansen protect their homes and preserve the vital forests. Give hope to communities today and ensure peace for generations to come.