Life Story: Ms. Preap Voleak with her first project in life

Ms. Preap Voleak is now 30 years old; she has 6 siblings living in Siem Reap province. Due to the lack of support from the family and being hopeless with herself, she left school (primary school in grad 6). She ended her hope for life and spent the rest of her life lying on the bed in her small house in rural commune, Siem Reap province. She spent her 24 hours at home, being dependent, and never get out of the house. She had fear of going out, was shy and embarrassed of how she looked, and especially the discriminated eyes that looked at her of being pity and poor. She described in tears; she hated her life and thought of committing suicide when her family members going out to earn the income.

Finally, she applied and have an interview with LFTW WWD program manager, and she was selected to join the WWD Network. Since then, she was equipped with skills and knowledge related to leadership, advocacy, project proposal and management, SRH, GBV, Mental health care, and especially being included to her second family of Our WWDs network. From there, she builds up her new hope for life; she is encouraged to dream and inspire others to be strong and be empower to participate in society.

Interestingly, she decided to get out of her conform zone and prepared her small project proposal that aimed to form a WWD SHG to equip them with skills and knowledge of Mental Health Care, GBV, Rights of PwDs, and especially build the capacity for the local authority about PwDs rights, access to GBV and mental health services for WWDs, and Disability inclusion.

However, things were not easy as expected. She was stuck with her small project implementation because the local authorities did not approve her to implement her project. The commune chief denied and did not trust that she had the ability to implement the project.

“…I could not give any info, disability data in commune, or approve on this project implementation because you do nothing (jobless) and I just saw staying at home lying on the bed at home. I could not believe that you could actually implemented this project.”

Then he suggested Voleak to get supporting letter from LFTW, now known as PAfID, to ensure that she is one of our WWD members in our network, and she needed to send that letter to the district level to get approval. At district office, they suggested her to ask the director to bring our registration documents with relevant ministries to the provincial level to get the approval which is impossible as it was already late for our WWD to implement her project.

Then Voleak brought the letter to district again and again. She failed 3 times, and she went to the district department again (the 4th time) to lobby and advocate with the officer to approval. She shown all the supporting documents of her small project to the district officer reviewed. Then, he suggested to get the letter of approval from commune chief for her project implementation, so she went to the commune office again to submit the request letter of approval from the commune office. The commune officer reviewed and appreciate her commitment, so he finally approved, and Voleak could start her implementation. 

She earned a lot from this project implementation though it was so challenging at the beginning. She conducted meetings and provided training to build the capacity of local authority related to the rights of PwDs, the access of GBV and legal support, and mental health services for WWW, and she also included Disability and inclusion and accessibility audit to make the commune office accessible for everyone.  In addition, she formed a WWD SHG to build their capacity related to PwDs rights, GBV and legal support, and mental health care for the groups to empower them to be courage and actively participate in their community.

Voleak was extremely happy; she described in tears that it was the first time in her life that this project definitely increased her self-esteem and changed the way that her community thinking about her.

“…I was so delighted; I was almost in tears when I heard the authority called me a teacher as well as WWDs in the group that I worked with them in this project. It was my first time in life; I could not believe that now my community, I was considered as a teacher. I was even more delighted when the authority said that my project was the first project that focus on women with disability in my community. They learnt (local authority and WWDs group) a lot new skills about disability inclusion and the law which was surprising us as we have never known and heard about it before….”

“…What made me the most excited was that the WWDs as participants mentioned that I was the first woman with severe disability taking lead and provide training to others. This really inspired them to participate and actively support each other to not being shy and shut people out….”

“…Consequently, I am definitely grateful of PAfID for supporting me and empower me to dare to dream that I can do things differently and especially give me a safe space to learn, practice, and earn practical experiences from implementing my small project…”

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Throughout our work, we have learnt that actors in the field of development need to go through organizational and systematic processes of change within their programs to move towards sustainable (disability) inclusion. We support these processes at community, organizational and governmental level.

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