Saturday, April 10, 2010

57:The Self-Empowered Woman: Mu Sochua

Dear Followers,

In recent blogs, we've met astronauts, authors, a singer, a nurse and a nun, and today I'd like to introduce you to a remarkable woman whose life experiences have taken her from Cambodia to California, Paris, Italy and back to Cambodia to work as a political activist on behalf of women.

Mu Sochua, who is the most prominent female member of Cambodia's Parliament, was born in Phnom Penh in 1954, and was sent to California in 1972 (after her high school graduation) in order to escape the war and genocide in Cambodia. But when the Khmer Rouge (whose mass killings took 1.7 million lives) came to power in 1975, her parents (who had stayed in Cambodia) disappeared like so many others.

Mu Sochua earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology in San Francisco State University and a Master's Degree in Social Work from UC Berkley before returning home in 1989.

She has formed Cambodia's first organization for women (Khemara) and worked to stop human trafficking and domestic violence. In a country where women are expected to be subservient, she has broken the mold (13: More Than Meets the Eye).

For six years she was a minister of women's affairs, and campaigned against child abuse as well as the exploitation of female workers. The 55 year old advocate is responsible for a new Cambodian word ("gen-de") because people are finally aware that women have rights. Fighting for women is a cause that is at the center of her life (7: Magnificent Obsession).

Right now, Mu Sochua is in a risky war of defamation suits with Hun Sen, Cambodia's domineering Prime Minister (11: Risk Addition) because he called her "cheung klang" ("strong legs"), which - for a woman in Cambodia - is very insulting. She sued him for defamation, he sued her back, her suit was dismissed, and she was fined $4,000 which she refuses to pay.

In 2005, she was one of 1,ooo women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sex trafficking of women in Cambodia and Thailand. And filmmaker Oliver Stone has paid homage to the anti-child trafficking documentary "The Virgin Harvest," in which she appears.

She and her American husband (who works for the United Nations) have three grown children, and have lived in Cambodia since 1989.

Looking forward to your comments...

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