Cambodian activists attending Climate Change/Social Change conference

With less than a month until the 2nd Climate Change/Social Change conference, around the theme “World at a Crossroads”, in Melbourne, the list of confirmed speakers and sponsors is growing.

The conference is being organised by Green Left Weekly, Socialist Alliance and Resistance at the University of Melbourne over September 30-October 3. It aims to promote recognition that in order to solve the global climate crisis, radical social change is required.

To tackle a crisis that threatens to make the Earth uninhabitable for the vast majority of humans and other species, those involved in the campaigns to change society need to unite.

As part of GLW’s coverage of this important conference, it will be profiling some of the activists from around Australia and the globe that will attend.

In this issue, we look at three women from Cambodia from Social Action for Change (SAC).

SAC is an independent team of Cambodians working to build, strengthen and support grassroots movements, workers and women activists in Cambodia by providing technical assistance and advocacy assistance for social, economic and political change. 

Sao Sopheap

Sao Sopheap began working at Womyn’s Agenda for Change (WAC) in 2004, as part of the general supporting staff. She continued there until 2009 when the WAC was phased out.

In 2010, Sopheap worked as a technical assistant to support The Messenger Band — a grassroots musical group initiated by WAC made up of women working in the garment industry.

The aim of The Messenger Band is to compose and perform songs that reflect the daily lives and struggles faced by working people — and to advocate for better living and working conditions through their songs and performances.

Using original songs composed by women themselves, the group works with drop-in centres and other community institutions to provoke discussion around problems and issues faced by marginalised communities of women. These include women workers, sex workers, rural farmers, women living with HIV/AIDS and landless female-headed households.

The aim is to unite them and let them know they are not alone in their daily struggles to survive.

Sopheap is now working with SAC — an informal network created to support three community based organisations: Women’s Network for Unity, a sex workers group; the Workers’ Information Center, a garment workers group; and the Messenger Band.

Beside this work, she is also a local consultant for the McKnight Foundation to assist Cambodian grantees, which most of who work on natural resource management and indigenous rights.

Chrek Sophea

A former garment worker, Sophea had been working in a factory until 2005. Then, she began working for the Womyn's Agenda for Change (WAC).

In 2009, when WAC was phased out, Sophea began working for SAC.

Sophea's main role in the SAC is leading the healthcare campaign called "Pay or Die".

One of the major outcomes of this campaign was a documentary called Pay or Die about the health care system in Cambodia.

Pay or Die has been used to educate Cambodian exploited and poor about health issues, especially farmers, sex workers and garment workers.   

Sophea is also a founder and member of the Cambodian Women's Movement for Social Justice (CWMSJ).

CWMSJ is an independent, voluntary initiative raising concern around women's issues, especially women's rights, the role of women in politics, the judicial system in Cambodia and demanding freedom of expression.

Sophea will be presenting a workshop  on  Climate  Change  &  Health  in  Cambodia at the conference.

Ly Pisey

Pisey started working as a young activist with the Womyn’s Agenda for Change in 2004. In 2007, Pisey was selected to participate in a four month Human Rights Advocates Program at Columbia University in New York.

Today, Pisey is passionately working for SAC. Her main role is working with the Women’s Network for Unity (WNU), a sex workers' collective advocating for the right to work and improve their livelihood.

Pisey also volunteers in other areas of civil society, such as land and gay rights networks.

Pisey will be presenting a workshop on Climate Change and Sex Work at the conference.

[World at a Crossroads, the 2nd Climate Change Social Change conference, is organised by  Green Left Weekly, Resistance and the Socialist Alliance and sponsored by the Office of Environmental Programs, Melbourne University.

It is co-sponsored by: Friends of the Earth (Melbourne),, Links International Journal for Socialist Renewal, Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Sydney University Political Economy Society, Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM -- Philippines), Australia-Asia Worker Links, Left Unity Adelaide, Adelaide Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN), Community Radio 3CR and Action Aid International.

Registration and other information, including the latest list of confirmed speakers, can be found at .]