First They Killed My Father

"Cambodian author and human rights activist Loung Ung recounts the horrors she suffered as a child under the rule of the deadly Khmer Rouge." 


These Days We Have to Be Poor People: Women’s Narratives of the Economic Aftermath of Forced Evictions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


McGinn, Colleen. 2015. “These Days We Have to Be Poor People: Women’s Narratives of the Economic Aftermath of Forced Evictions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.” Paper presented at Land Grabbing, Conflict and Agrarian-Environmental Transformations: Perspectives from East and South-East Asia Conference. Chiang Mai University, June. 

Author: Colleen McGinn


“This paper explores the economic aftermath of forced evictions for urban Cambodian women. It is based on an analysis of in-depth narratives of 22 women displaced from five locations in Phnom Penh, the capital city. Evictees’ overall post-eviction coping and adaptation proved to be grounded in their economic circumstances, which in turn framed other risk and resilience factors. The nature and degree of economic harm resulting from the evictions varied widely, and followed specific patterns consistent with pre-displacement socioeconomic status, livelihood source, and the degree to which social networks were embedded in their former neighborhoods. Those who worked in the informal sector experienced shocks to their livelihoods, especially those who landed in remote locations. Homeowners were more typically harmed in terms of assets: they might maintain relatively stable incomes, but lose enormous value of their properties. A third group experienced a catastrophic double blow affecting both livelihoods and assets; this group tended to include shopkeepers whose shelter and livelihoods were both tied to their property. There were also some women who reported that forced eviction had had a relatively benign impact on them. These narratives were idiosyncratic. However, several explanatory factors emerged, including these women had intact livelihoods, superficial ties to their former neighborhoods, and/or found new housing nearby. I conclude with recommendations, including compensation at full market value for seized properties, and broad urban planning measures to protect and encourage affordable rental housing within the city, proximate to diverse livelihood opportunities. A housing/shelter focus to advocacy, policy, and assistance strategies is too narrow, because it poorly addresses the livelihood crisis experienced by many of the displaced.” (Abstract from original source

Keywords: gender, land grab, eviction, Cambodia, Southeast Asia, state-gender relations

Topics: Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Land Grabbing, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2015

Gendered Eviction, Protest and Recovery: A Feminist Political Ecology Engagement with Land Grabbing in Rural Cambodia


Lamb, Vanessa, Laura Schoenberger, Carl Middleton, and Borin Un. 2017. “Gendered Eviction, Protest and Recovery: A Feminist Political Ecology Engagement with Land Grabbing in Rural Cambodia.” The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44 (6) : 1215-1234. 

Authors: Vanessa Lamb , Laura Schoenberger, Carl Middleton, Borin Un


We examine what we argue has been overlooked in the Cambodian context: the roles and practices of women in relation to men and their complementary struggles to protest land grabbing and eviction, and subsequently rebuild community and state relations. We present research carried out in Cambodia in 2014–2015 in Kratie, the country’s most concessioned province. Through a feminist political ecology lens, we examine how protest and post-eviction community governance are defined as women’s or men’s work. Our case also reveals how ‘rebuilding’ gender relations in rural Cambodia simultaneously rebuilds uneven community and state relations.

Keywords: gender, land grab, eviction, Cambodia, South East Asia, state-gender relations

Topics: Gender, Women, Men, Gender Roles, Gendered Discourses, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Land Grabbing Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2017

Gender Justice: The World Bank’s New Approach to the Poor?


Schech, Susanne, and Sanjugta Vas Dev. 2007. “Gender Justice: The World Bank’s New Approach to the Poor?” Development in Practice 17 (1): 14–26. 

Authors: Susanne Schech, Sanjugta Vas Dev


Gender inequality is now widely acknowledged as an important factor in the spread and entrenchment of poverty. This article examines the World Development Report 2000/01 as the World Bank's blueprint for addressing poverty in the twenty-first century, together with several more recent Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), with a view to analysing the manner in which gender is incorporated into the policy-making process and considering whether it constitutes a new approach to gender and poverty. It is argued that the World Bank's approach to poverty is unlikely to deliver gender justice, because there remain large discrepancies between the economic and social policies that it prescribes. More specifically, the authors contend that the Bank employs an integrationist approach which encapsulates gender issues within existing development paradigms without attempting to transform an overall development agenda whose ultimate objective is economic growth as opposed to equity. Case studies from Cambodia and Vietnam are used to illustrate these arguments.

Keywords: aid, East Asia, South Asia, Governance and public policy, gender and diversity

Topics: Development, Economies, Poverty, Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Gender Equity, International Financial Institutions, Justice Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, Vietnam

Year: 2007

World Views in Peace Building: A Post-Conflict Reconstruction Challenge in Cambodia


Gellman, Mneesha. 2010. “World Views in Peace Building: A Post-Conflict Reconstruction Challenge in Cambodia.” Development in Practice 20 (1): 85–98. doi:10.1080/09614520903436984.

Author: Mneesha Gellman



This article explores post-conflict reconstruction in Cambodia through an analysis of both the dangers of liberal peace building and the positive role that training in capacity building plays in war-torn societies. The central question addressed is how insider–outsider dynamics influence Cambodia’s post-conflict reconstruction projects; and what assumptions do international workers and Cambodian NGO staff make about ‘the good life’ that will be constructed? The article offers an overview of Cambodia’s history and cultural context to situate its analysis of liberal peace building and foreign donors, as well as the behavioural characteristics of international peace builders operating within Cambodia. It assesses the potency of elite capture of insider–outsider partnership, specific NGO management practices, and the role of gender to better illuminate the challenges for post-conflict reconstruction. The article concludes with recommendations for improving future partnerships between insiders and outsiders in Cambodian peace-building projects.


Cet article traite de la reconstruction post-conflit au Cambodge a` travers une analyse des dangers de la construction de la paix selon des principes libe´raux d’une part et, d’autre part, du roˆle positif que la formation en renforcement des capacite´s joue dans les socie´te´s de´chire´es par la guerre. La question centrale traite´e ici est : comment la dynamique entre les entite´s internes et externes influence-t-elle les projets post-reconstruction cambodgiens et quelles suppositions les travailleurs internationaux et le personnel d’ONG cambodgiennes font-ils sur ‘la bonne vie’ qui sera construite? Cet article comporte une vue d’ensemble du contexte historique et culturel du Cambodge afin de situer mon analyse de la construction de la paix libe´rale et des bailleurs de fonds e´trangers, ainsi que des caracte´ristiques comportementales des entite´s internationales qui construisent la paix au sein meˆme du Cambodge. J’e´value la puissance de l’accaparation par les e´lites des partenariats internes-externes, les pratiques de gestion propres aux ONG et le roˆle du genre afin de mieux mettre en relief les de´fis de la reconstruction post-conflit. L’article se conclut par des recommandations en vue de l’ame´lioration des partenariats futurs entre les entite´s internes et externes dans les projets cambodgiens de construction de la paix.


Este artigo explora a reconstruc¸a˜o no po´s-conflito do Camboja atrave´s de uma ana´lise dos perigos da construc¸a˜o da paz liberal e o papel positivo que o treinamento em capacitac¸a˜o desempenha nas sociedades arrasadas pela guerra. A questa˜o central abordada e´ como as dinaˆmicas internas–externas influenciam os projetos de reconstruc¸a˜o no po´s-conflito do Camboja; e quais pressupostos os trabalhadores internacionais e funciona´rios de ONG cambojanas adotam sobre ‘a boa vida’ que sera´ construı´da? O artigo oferece minha visa˜o geral sobre o contexto histo´rico e cultural do Camboja para situar a ana´lise de construc¸a˜o da paz liberal e doadores estrangeiros, assim como caracterı´sticas comportamentais de implementadores internacionais da paz que esta˜o atuando dentro do Camboja. Eu avalio a capacidade de obtenc¸a˜o de parceria interna-externa da elite, pra´ticas de gesta˜o de ONGs especı´ficas e o papel da questa˜o de geˆnero para melhor iluminar os desafios para a reconstruc¸a˜o no po´s-conflito. O artigo conclui com recomendac¸o˜es para se melhorar as parcerias futuras entre agentes internos e externos nos projetos de construc¸a˜o da paz do Camboja.


Este ensayo examina la reconstruccio´n durante la etapa de posconflicto en Camboya analizando los riesgos de la construccio´n de la paz y la importancia del fortalecimiento de capacidades en sociedades devastadas por la guerra. La interrogante es ¿co´mo influye la dina´mica interior-exterior en los proyectos de reconstruccio´n durante el posconflicto en Camboya y co´mo suponen los funcionarios internacionales y el personal de las ONG camboyanas que debe ser ‘la buena vida’ a construir? Este ensayo revisa el contexto histo´rico y cultural de Camboya como marco de referencia para analizar la construccio´n de la paz en el paı´s. La autora evalu´a co´mo las e´lites pueden cooptar las alianzas nacionales e internacionales, ciertas pra´cticas administrativas de las ONG y el enfoque de ge´nero, mostrando posibles retos para ası´ ejemplificar los desafı´os de la reconstruccio´n durante el posconflicto. El ensayo concluye con recomendaciones para mejorar futuras alianzas entre organizaciones nacionales y extranjeras en los proyectos de construccio´n de paz en Camboya.

Keywords: aid, conflict, reconstruction, gender, diversity, East Asia

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, NGOs, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2010

No Visible Difference: A Women’s Empowerment Process in a Cambodian NGO


Pearson, Jenny. 2011. “No Visible Difference: A Women’s Empowerment Process in a Cambodian NGO.” Development in Practice 21 (3): 392–404. doi:10.1080/09614524.2011.558064.

Author: Jenny Pearson



The lives of female Cambodian NGO staff are characterised by the contradictions of apparent freedom and multiple invisible constraints on their behaviour and choices. An empowerment process facilitated by an expatriate did not produce the expected responses of sisterhood and group action. Through a series of workshops, learning emerged about the context-dependent nature of concepts of empowerment, and the irrelevance of many Western models for other cultures. Fear and mistrust, rooted in both traditional culture and the post-conflict context, are powerful and profound blocks to change in women’s lives. No visible difference in workplace behaviours appeared after the empowerment process. However, the women responded to new insights about their lives, beliefs, and culture in ways that had meaning for them; and they reported significant benefits for family and social relationships.


La vie des femmes qui travaillent pour les ONG cambodgiennes se caractérise par les contradictions entre une liberté apparente et des contraintes invisibles multiples pesant sur leur comportement et leurs choix. Un processus d’autonomisation facilité par un expatrié n’a pas donné lieu aux réactions escomptées de solidarité féminine et d’action collective. À travers une série d’ateliers de travail, il a été possible d’en apprendre davantage sur la nature dépendant du contexte des concepts d’autonomisation, et sur le caractàre peu pertinent de nombreux modèles occidentaux pour d’autres cultures. La peur et la méfiance, ancrées dans la culture traditionnelle ainsi que dans le contexte post-conflit, constituent des obstacles puissants et profonds à tout changement dans la vie des femmes. Aucune différence visible n’est apparue dans les comportements sur les lieux de travail après le processus d’autonomisation. Cependant, les femmes ont réagi aux nouvelles manières de voir leur vie, leurs croyances et leur culture de fac¸ons qui ont un sens pour elles ; et elles ont signalé des avantages significatifs pour les relations familiales et sociales.


A vida de funciona´rias de uma ONG cambojanacaracterizada pelas contradic¸o˜es da aparente liberdade e mu´ltiplos limites invisı´veis em seu comportamento e escolhas. Um processo de empoderamento promovido por um expatriado na˜o produziu as respostas esperadas de irmandade e ac¸a˜o de grupo. Atrave´s de uma se´rie de workshops, surgiu um aprendizado sobre a natureza dependente do contexto dos conceitos de empoderamento e a irrelevaˆncia de va´rios modelos ocidentais para outras culturas. Medo e desconfianc¸a, arraigados na cultura tradicional e no contexto po´s-conflito, sa˜o obsta´culos poderosos e profundos para mudar a vida das mulheres. Nenhuma diferenc¸a visı´vel apareceu apo´s o processo de empoderamento nos comportamentos no local de trabalho. Pore´m, as mulheres responderam a novas ideias sobre suas vidas, convicc¸o˜es e cultura de maneira que fizesse sentido para elas; e elas relataram benefı´cios significativos para as relac¸o˜es familiares e sociais.


Las vidas de las mujeres trabajadoras de una ONG camboyana se caracterizan por las contradicciones entre una aparente libertad y las mu´ltiples restricciones invisibles que coartan su comportamiento y sus opciones. El proceso de empoderamiento facilitado por una trabajadora extranjera no produjo la esperada hermandad entre mujeres ni acciones colectivas. El ana´lisis resultante de una serie de talleres revelo´ que los conceptos de empoderamiento esta´n ligados al contexto y que muchos modelos occidentales son irrelevantes para otras culturas. El arraigado temor y la desconfianza que se encuentran en culturas tradicionales y en contextos de posconflicto constituyen poderosos escollos para transformar la vida de las mujeres. No hubo una diferencia perceptible de las actitudes en el trabajo tras el proceso de empoderamiento. Sin embargo, las mujeres asimilaron nuevos conocimientos sobre sus vidas, creencias y cultura de manera provechosa; tambie´n reconocieron los avances importantes que lograron para sus relaciones familiares y sociales.

Keywords: civil society, gender, diversity, methods, East Asia

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Women, NGOs, Post-Conflict Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2011

The Unbearable Heaviness of Being: Reflections on Female Altruism in Cambodia, Philippines, The Gambia and Costa Rica


Chant, Sylvia. 2010. “The Unbearable Heaviness of Being: Reflections on Female Altruism in Cambodia, Philippines, The Gambia and Costa Rica.” Progress and Development Studies 10 (2): 145–59.

Author: Sylvia Chant


Reviewing existing scholarship and drawing on our own experience of microlevel qualitative research on gender in countries in three regions of the Global South (Cambodia, the Philippines, Costa Rica and The Gambia), this article examines patterns of women’s altruistic behaviour within poor family-based households. As a quality and practice labeled as ‘feminine’, the article illuminates the motives, dimensions and dynamics that characterise this apparently enduring female trait. It also makes some tentative suggestions as to how the links between women and altruism might be more systematically examined, problematized and addressed in development, and gender and development (GAD) analysis and policy.

Topics: Development, Economies, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Households, Political Economies, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, West Africa, Americas, Central America, Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, Costa Rica, Gambia, Philippines

Year: 2010

Transformative Reparations for Women and Girls at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia


Williams, Sarah, and Emma Palmer. 2016. “Transformative Reparations for Women and Girls at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 10 (2): 311–31. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijw006.

Authors: Sarah Williams, Emma Palmer


Reparations programmes are one form of response to violence. However, scholars have criticized their tendency to focus on restoring victims to the position they were in before the conflict began, usually through awarding restitution, compensation or rehabilitation measures. Instead, critics have suggested that reparations should aim to transform the societal conditions that contribute to sexual violence and the inequality of women and girls through recognition, redistribution and representation. This article builds upon this emerging scholarship to explore the potential for transformative reparations in international criminal tribunals through examining the reparations mandate and practice of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). It concludes that the ECCC’s legal and institutional framework, and the context in which it operates, limit the contribution that it can make to transformation. It is therefore important to be realistic about what can be expected from such institutions.

Keywords: reparations, transformation, gender, international criminal justice, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Topics: Gender, Women, Girls, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Reparations, Transitional Justice Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2016

Picking up the Threads: Model Approach Helps Cambodia Design a New Fashion Image


Medvedev, Katalin, and Britanny Reef. 2012. “Picking up the Threads: Model Approach Helps Cambodia Design a New Fashion Image.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 41 (1/2): 131–49.

Authors: Katalin Medvedev, Britanny Reef


Last paragraph of Introduction: Most of the country's intelligentsia and skilled labor force perished. Because Cambodia's entire population was uprooted and displaced around the country, the national agriculture, industry, and service sectors, including textiles and fashion production, were either destroyed or abandoned. Vietnamese troops put an end to the destruction by ousting Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge in 1979. In 1991 the Paris Peace Agreement finally brought a cease-fire in the continuing civil war. The agreement and the subsequent establishment of the United Nations Transitional Authority in 1992, followed by national elections in 1993, opened Cambodia to international investment and aid, which claimed to rebuild the nation and spur economic growth. As part of this, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like Blue Mekong, which operates within the Stung Treng Women's Development Center have become important catalysts in creating socially and economically sustainable employment opportunities for Cambodian women in fashion production.

Topics: Development, Economies, Gender, Women, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, NGOs, Post-Conflict Regions: Americas, North America, Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, United States of America, Vietnam

Year: 2012

Good Governance from the Ground Up: Women’s Roles in Post-Conflict Cambodia


McGrew, Laura, Kate Frieson, and Sambath Chan. 2004. Good Governance from the Ground Up: Women’s Roles in Post-Conflict Cambodia. Cambridge, MA: Hunt Alternatives Fund.

Authors: Laura McGrew, Kate Frieson, Sambath Chan


Women are spearheading Cambodia’s transformation to democracy. During the years when the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia watched over the nation’s progress, women jumped at the chance to aid in reconstruction. They aimed to make the process of drafting a new constitution more inclusive, and they rallied to help ensure peaceful elections following violent campaign periods. Today, women compose the majority of Cambodians with experience in conflict management and peace building.

This publication traces women’s contributions to governance and peace through local and national politics as well as civil society; examines the significance of gender perspectives to the promotion of good governance; and reflects on mechanisms enhancing women’s participation in the political arena. (Institute for Inclusive Security)

Topics: Civil Society, Democracy / Democratization, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Gender Balance, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Governance, Constitutions, Quotas, Elections, Post-Conflict Governance, International Organizations, NGOs, Peacebuilding, Peace Processes, Political Participation, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2004


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