The Shakti Group, a group of seven women who attended the World Social Forum in India with the Global Fund in January 2004, traveled throughout Vietnam with Dechen Tsering, Global Fund Program Officer for Asia and Oceania. At the same time, a newly formed group of donors and staff, led by Global Fund Advisor Mu Sochua, met with rural and urban women's groups in Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in Asia.
Since our founding, the Global Fund has awarded just 10 grants in Vietnam, a Communist country that only recently opened its doors to the United States. Over nine days, the Shakti group visited women's organizations in rural villages, where nearly 45 percent of the population lives in poverty. These groups are addressing issues such as trafficking, domestic violence, and economic empowerment for women farmers.
The outreach trip has enabled the Global Fund to expand our network in Vietnam, so that we can actively support its inspiring and committed women's movement that is rich with possibilities for change. Guided by Mu Sochua, an extraordinary leader in the Cambodian Women's Rights movement, another group of donors met with several Global Fund grantees in the conflict torn country of Cambodia.
Following extensive U.S. bombing during the Vietnam War, Cambodia was further traumatized by the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge. Nearly every person the group met with had lost a family member to the Khmer Rouge, or to its legacy of landmines and violence.
The group also met with women's groups and grantees such as Strey Khmer, which is organizing income-generating cooperatives of women weavers living in extreme poverty. Others are mobilizing garment factory workers to fight for their rights. In light of the violence, poverty and exploitation experienced by the majority of Cambodian women, the Global Fund is extremely proud to support the women's rights movement in Cambodia.
1. Under the Khmer Rouge, civil war, genocide and starvation claimed the lives of more than 20 percent of the population in Cambodia.
2. Women make up 70 percent of the rural work force in Vietnam.
Writer Bob Burnett traveled with the Global Fund to Cambodia and Thailand. Throughout his travels, he posted several moving opinion pieces on the Huffington Post about the status of women in South East Asia.
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