Kambodscha: Oung Chanthol

The suffering of women encourages us to work, to do more to help. We are human beings. We cannot ignore their situation.

— Oung Chanthol

Oung Chanthol (born 1967), was cofounder of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) in 1997 and is its current executive director. The CWCC has helped over 55,600 female victims of violence, rape and trafficking in its drop-in centers and shelters. It provides legal counseling, victims’ reintegration, community awareness programs, and raises general public awareness through a media campaign. The center receives financial support from the German government and international NGOs.

With her educational and social background, Oung Chanthol could have chosen to work with any government agency or international organization. But she chose to help the many Cambodian women who are victims of trafficking, domestic violence and sexual abuse. With her colleagues in NGOs, Chanthol cofounded CWCC, but did not realize that the task ahead would be so arduous. Within a week, they were overloaded with cases that needed urgent attention. “We intended to provide a shelter for about 20 women per day. In just one week, it was full. From word of mouth, hundreds of women came,” recalls Chanthol. “We could not just turn these women away.” With 71 full-time staff and over 300 village volunteers, the CWCC provides integrated intervention services to the victims. These services include monitoring gender-based violence and rescuing victims, provision of shelter to victims, counseling, empowering women through skills training, scholarships to prevent trafficking, legal assistance, and reintegration of victims into the community. An average of 1800 seek the services of the center every year. “The suffering of women encourages us to work. There are many cases and we felt that something needed to be done to help the injured women.” she declares. Chanthol assisted the United Nations Center for Human Rights in Cambodia where she monitored the freedom of the press, labor rights and land rights, investigating and preparing reports on abuses by the state. She also helped establish dialogue between government, human rights organizations, journalist associations, labor unions and employer associations. Chanthol received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for emergent leadership in 2000 and the Japan Human Rights award in 2001.

Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC)