Kambodscha: Boua Chanthou

We hope that what we are doing is bringing about reform from the bottom, and that the concepts of democracy and transparency are instilled in the minds of people.

— Boua Chanthou

Boua Chanthou (born 1952) left Cambodia to go to school abroad in 1972. When she returned eight years later at the end of the civil war, her country was devastated and deserted. Boua decided to work for its reconstruction. To bring back the community spirit among Cambodians, she encouraged the setting up of a small savings program, vocational skills training and monitoring development aid to ensure that it benefits the grassroots communities. Now Boua heads the Partnership for Development in Kampuchea (Padek), which was established in 1979.

When Boua Chanthou left her country in 1972 to continue her studies abroad, she did not know it would take eight years before she could return. And when she did, she learned that her parents and siblings had not survived the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Her return to Cambodia in 1980, "influenced the way I looked at life,"she says. Confused and desperate to find out how her family perished, she traveled all over the country, talking to people to learn about their suffering. Seeing the devastation in the country, she decided to do something to rebuild her motherland. "The suffering of my people that I learned about, taught me many things. After seeing what the Khmer Rouge had done and studying the ideology that they adhere to, I learned to appreciate practical things rather than ideology," says Boua Chanthou, who wrote about the internal war in books she co-authored. After also doing consultancy work abroad from 1980 to 1995, she returned to Cambodia. Through Partnership for Development in Kampuchea (Padek) and with her educational background in economics, education and multicultural studies, she now helps to bring back the spirit of community by crafting development programs that respond to the needs of the community. As a result, small credit programs have been set up in over 250 villages where community members invest, save and assist each other. Padek focuses on development and democracy, skills training, food distribution and drought relief. After dialogues with farmers, teachers, and parents, Boua helped organize vocational training and training programs in fisheries, veterinary sciences, and health. She hopes that through Padek, people will learn the importance of working together in a transparent and democratic manner.

Partnership for Development in Kampuchea (Padek)