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Cambodia: Community Research Team Helps Decision Making

July 8, 2010

  • The Civil Society Fund (formerly known as the Small Grants Program) supports activities of civil society organizations who encourage and support civic engagement of poor and marginalized groups.

July 8, 2010 — Meung Sokny, 34, a resident of Village 6, Sangkat Veal Vong, Kampong Cham province, is delighted to talk about her problems to the Commune Research Team (CRT), because she feels she gets a quick response and better service. “Now when we want to have administrative stuff done, it is quicker,” she chuckles. “Our health services have also improved and cost less time and money.”

The CRT has been introduced by the Democracy Resource Center for National Development (DND) with funding from the World Bank’s Civil Society Grant at 33 villages in three communes of Kampong Cham province. With $7,000 support, DND focuses on empowering and providing opportunities to local people to participate in decision making to improve community development, service delivery and good governance.

DND Executive Director Bun Rithy said 20 residents and young people were chosen to be CRT members. Twenty families from each village were selected for interviews for the survey. The questionnaires focused on service delivery on primary healthcare, primary schooling, and commune administration.

The survey results found that around 50 percent of people were generally satisfied with primary healthcare service. However, 38 percent were unsatisfied with birth delivery at the health center and 46 percent with other health services, though vaccination got a 52 percent approval and birth-spacing programs 54. For primary schooling, 46 percent of people were satisfied with class size limits, but 53 percent unsatisfied with teachers asking students for money. In commune administrative services, only 46 percent were satisfied with procedures such as getting permission to set up a small business, construction, responding to crimes, land disputes, violence, allowing people to participate in meetings, and information dissemination. But majorities approved procedures for getting a birth certificate (53 percent) and registering a death (54).

Mr. Rithy said the CRT team submitted their findings to commune council members, health centers, primary schools and relevant stakeholders for their information and intervention.

Veal Vong Commune Chief Mean Chhel welcomed and accepted the CRT team’s findings.

“The report helps us a lot,” Mr. Chhel said. “The team helps to monitor our work, show us the strong and weak points of our services and help us improve.”

Mr. Chhel sees the positive changes since the report, such as more people using his commune’s administrative services, and more people coming to the health center as its performance has improved.

Ms. Sokny of Village 6, and another villager from Village 3 in Veal Vong Commune praised the program and said it gave them confidence to express their ideas on village issues.

CRT member Yem Vanna, a 23-year-old female student from Kom Chay Mear Chea Sim University, says the program helps the team learn more about issues going on at the community level, and on a personal level helps give her confidence to talk to authorities.

“Before, I was afraid of going to meet commune officers,” she said. “When I needed a letter from them I always asked my brother or father to do it for me. Now I no longer feel like that. I have the confidence to express my ideas about my village. Before, I knew only the theory from my study, but now I know the practical realities of the problems my village and my family face.”

“Furthermore,” she added, “reduce people’s expenditure and improve quality of services is the way how our country can be developed.”