The Final ACCESS Learning and Exchange Workshop: A Successful Reflection and Collaboration

The Final ACCESS Learning and Exchange Workshop: A Successful Reflection and Collaboration

On 27 July 2023, the Australia-Cambodia Cooperation for Equitable Sustainable Services (ACCESS) Program, with the support of the Australian Government, organised the ACCESS Final Learning and Exchange Workshop in Phnom Penh. The event brought together representatives from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY), the Disability Action Council Secretariat General, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the ACCESS Implementing Partners (IPs), the Organisation of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), relevant stakeholders, and the ACCESS team.

The objective of the workshop was threefold: to reflect on and solidify the insights derived from the ACCESS’ internal reflection meeting held earlier in the week, to share evidence of ACCESS’ achievements and highlight and showcase IPs’ good practice, and to generate and reflect on key learnings.

Panellists comprising representatives from Tboung Khmum OPD, the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation (CDPO), CARE Cambodia, and the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre (CWCC) shared their experiences and achievements under three key themes: people’s empowerment, quality of services and monitoring, and partnership

Among the panellists, Mr Orn Chanthorn, Director of the OPD in Tboung Khmum, shared his experience in achieving remarkable support for persons with disabilities in his community through Self-Help Groups (SHGs). He emphasised that SHGs create awareness about disability rights, enhance access to services and public social protection schemes, and underscored the importance of building trust and self-confidence within SHG members as well as, promoting strong collaboration with local authorities to ensure the sustainability of the SHGs.

Ms Thak Socheat, Executive Director of CWCC, highlighted the pivotal role of women’s SHGs in community support and information sharing. Through capacity building provided by CWCC with support from the ACCESS Program, members of the SHGs receive knowledge and information on GBV and disability inclusion. Besides this, the members have disseminated knowledge and information to other women in the community and facilitated and referred survivors to other GBV service providers. Despite the fact that the project has ended, the organization continues to support women, and continues to utilise its extensive and productive networks built during the Program.

Ms Mak Monika, the Director of CDPO, shared the organisation’s good practice in supporting persons with diverse disabilities, including persons with visual and hearing disabilities, by working closely with relevant government and non-government institutions, including OPDs. Through this collaboration with governmental and non-governmental institutions, CDPO successfully advocated for policy changes and disability inclusion in social protection programs.

Mr Jan Noorlander, Deputy Director of CARE Cambodia, showcased CARE’s initiatives empowering ethnic and indigenous women affected by GBV in Ratanakiri. He highlighted the significance of understanding rights, providing mechanisms for communication with authorities, and fostering dialogue forums for policymakers and beneficiaries. He provided a few suggestions based on CARE’s approach: As a first step, a thorough review of the government’s existing policy framework on recognition and respect indigenous ‘s rights, law on land rights, forest law etc through a triangular approach, 1: Working with government institution to support women indigenous ‘s righ, 2: Working with Men to support women to participate in community activities, 3: Empowerment Women Indigenous to access information, capacity development in order to empower them. Those must ensure that women indigenous are free from pressure including support them to use their native language.

Ms Anne Rouve-Khiev, Team Leader of the ACCESS Program, stated in the workshop that she is pleased to see participants share and reflect together on what has been done, the contribution from the government counterparts, and the massive learning from the program. She expressed her pride in the collective achievements of the five-year program. She commended ACCESS’ strong partnership approach, collaboration dynamic between all partners, and resolute ownership demonstrated from government counterparts, even during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the workshop concluded, participants shared their significant takeaways:

  • ACCESS reached targeted beneficiaries, including people with disabilities and survivors of GBV.
  • Strong collaboration emerged between the GBV and disability sectors/working groups.
  • There was robust partnership and cooperation between stakeholders at the national, and sub-national level as well as among implementing partners.
  • Government ministries exhibited unwavering commitment to the Program.
  • GBV and disability concerns gained prominence in policy dialogues.
  • The National Disability Action Plan’s implementation gained traction in public.

The workshop not only marked the culmination of the ACCESS Program but also showcased the remarkable impact achieved through effective collaboration and dedication.