In Cambodia, Self-Help Groups Build a Foundation for Solidarity

Nou Vary | March 3, 2015

Annual meeting for Self-Help Groups initiated by CWS NGO partner Khmer Community Development Association in the province of Battambang. Photo: Nou Vary

Annual meeting for Self-Help Groups initiated by CWS NGO partner Khmer Community Development Association in the province of Battambang. Photo: Nou Vary

(Editor’s note: In late January, CWS Cambodia Partnership Project Coordinator Nou Vary joined two annual meetings for self-help groups organized by the Khmer Community Development Association, known as KCDA, which is a CWS Cambodia project partner. Here are Nou Vary’s reflections on the meetings, and her impressions of the impact the groups have on local communities.)

When invited by KCDA to join two self-help group annual meetings, I naturally said “yes.” Meeting our NGO partners in action is a great way to gain insight into their accomplishments.

The meetings were held in Ou Ta Teak and Kampong Lpov villages in Battambang province. Their aim? Let self-help members share their experiences and learn from each other about saving, borrowing, bookkeeping and problem solving.

Since the groups started, the newest group has saved 234,000 Riel (about $58), and the oldest group has saved 2,943,700 Riel (about $736). Each group’s members talked about how they spend some of the money to support social welfare and community development activities such as supporting poor people who are ill, helping families with funerals and improving village infrastructure such as roads.

It is clear these groups are a core part of the integrated community development program that project partner KCDA is facilitating. Not only is the program helping women meet their money management goals, but it also gives the women a chance to learn new things about safe water, sanitation and health, and also ways to recognize and address domestic violence.

Among the 14 separate groups that joined the two meetings, a group from Ta Taok commune seemed to be making the most progress. Those in this group seemed very active, committed and conscientious, and they had many creative ideas on how to earn an extra income for their self-help group. Until now they have managed to save 1,248,000 Riel (about $312), and they are using their earnings to provide loans with a 5-percent monthly interest rate – a rate which is much lower than the other alternatives that the villagers have available. As the group’s resources have increased over the years, members have done their own bookkeeping and improved their skills in doing so.

It was so good to see all the groups’ progress, and I hope that next year the Ta Taok self-help group, as well as all the others, will have even more capital, and that their communities will benefit even more from the services they provide. Their leadership skills are expanding through the project and are helping build solidarity and confidence among their neighbors.

Although still rather small, these groups providing small benefits to their communities will grow over the next couple of years. Through their magnificent work, the livelihoods and the solidarity in their communities will only expand touch more lives.