Commune chief champion’s women’s role in leadership

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Heng Srey Pov was elected to the office of commune chief of Kansaom Ak in theJune 5 elections. FB

Heng Srey Pov, a resident of Kansaom Ak village and commune of Prey Veng province’s Kampong Trabek district, was re-elected as Kansaom Ak commune chief in the fifth mandate commune council election on June 5 in order to continue her work serving the people there – which includes finding ways to empower women and solve their particular problems.

Srey Pov was born on March 15, 1970 in Prey Veng province to a family of farmers with three children and she had a very hard life during her upbringing, so she has definitely come a very long way to reach her position as commune chief today.

Potential amidst poverty

When Srey Pov was a teenager during the 1980s, she helped sell her mother’s palm cakes to raise money for her own education. At the time, she had no more than one or two hundred riel to bring with her to school and on some days she didn’t even have that amount because her two older brothers were studying.

Srey Pov’s family had just one old bicycle that her three siblings would take turns riding to school. Her parents were farmers, but the small amount of farmland they had to cultivate made life difficult for the whole family.

She started school in 1979 after Cambodia was liberated from the Khmer Rouge but she only attended up through her first year of high school, after which she married and had three children.

Srey Pov said that she’d love to have been able to continue her education back then and even today she’d continue it as far as she could go if she possibly could but doing so at age 52 wouldn’t be easy or even practical given her current responsibilities.

She felt sorry for her education because at that time her family was poor and her parents could not afford to send their children to continue studying. If life is as prosperous as it is now, she would continue to graduate higher education as other.

Natural leader

At the age of 21, Srey Pov started working for the village women’s association where she gained the trust and support of the village elders and her peers. She was then promoted to the commune women’s association and expanded even further outward by working with local NGOs.

In 2007, the second mandate commune council election was held and Srey Pov ran for office as a candidate from the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). She won a seat on the council with the enthusiastic support of her local community and then served for two terms.

Then in 2017 she first stood for commune council chief and was elevated to that office, which she has now won re-election to just this past month for the fifth mandate.

Four-time election winner

Srey Pov is extremely proud to have been elected once again as commune chief through the support of the people and the elders in the community.

She says she has worked hard her whole life starting out in humble beginnings and she never imagined that she would be able to take on a leadership role like this because she had so little formal education compared to some others.

Now, however, having done the job for an entire five year mandate and having won re-election to continue in that role, she says she considers the job as her destiny, calling it a source of pride for every woman in her commune who now dedicate themselves to working as hard as they can – even past the point of exhaustion – in order to succeed.

In addition to her role as commune chief where she provides services to meet the needs and address the requests of the people of the commune, she also visits all of the villages to encourage the girls in the commune to work hard to learn both Khmer as well as foreign languages so they can compete with men for the best jobs.

She said her belief is that if men can do something then so can women, though they may take a different path to reach the same goal.

Srey Pov observed that in other countries there are many women who are leaders – even prime ministers – and while there are some notable high-ranking woman leaders in Cambodia today, the Kingdom must work towards elevating more of them to leadership positions in the future given that women make up 50 per cent of the population.

Road to a better future

For the new mandate, Srey Pov intends to focus on building infrastructure such as roads, drainage systems and other fundamental upgrades that will directly improve the lives of the residents.

Another important task she is focused on is providing better public services as well as increasing humanitarian work to help the poor and those in need such as victims of flooding, women undergoing personal or familial crisis and people suffering from mental illnesses.

For the new mandate, there are nine commune council seats occupied by elected candidates with eight coming from the Cambodian People’s Party and one from the Candlelight Party. Srey Pov remains the only woman politician in Kansom Ak commune, however.

In order to lead the commune administration by example, Srey Pov said she will work hard retain the trust of the local people and one way is by making sure that all public services are provided honestly and transparently with no extra charges or favouritism shown.

She also plans to make herself easy to reach while at home in her off-duty hours in case any commune residents encounter an emergency.

Feminine wisdom

“If I don’t appear to be frightened by the prospect of being the only woman leading a team of men, that is because there is nothing to be afraid of. When I was first elected, some of the other council members didn’t want to listen to me because I am a woman and most of them were older men, but once I became the chief I was able to get their attention,” she said.

She said that as a woman commune chief, it’s very important for her to understand the hardships endured by women and to help them because women need more support in order to overcome discrimination and achieve equality with men.

“There should be no discrimination or violence against women. Not in my commune, nor in the Kingdom. Women should be encouraged and given opportunities to work towards developing our nation,” she said.