More Support Needed for Cambodian Women Leaders

By Mary Dunbar

I was saddened to read the story about RACHA “USAID Review of Health NGO Finds Litany of Irregularities” (December 19), a well known and respected local organization.

Over the past decade, with USAID budget and oversight, RACHA has played a significant role in improving the health and nutrition of thousands of rural women and children, and in addition has made a strong impact on strengthening the Cambodia health system.

As all people who work in development know, there is no such thing as a “perfect organization,” even with the tightest checks and balances problems do occur. The important thing is to acknowledge weaknesses and promptly address them. In a large local organization such as RACHA, it is inevitable that there will be areas of the organization that require strengthening. It would be tragic if unsubstantiated allegations and unpleasant innuendos are allowed to diminish and overshadow the many years of hard work and commendable achievements of hundreds of RACHA staff.

I have known RACHA director Theary Chan since 1984. We worked together in a large Cambodian refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border. From her early days as a young, passionate champion of women’s rights, Theary displayed a rare commendable courage. Despite working in a precarious, lawless environment, she frequently stood up to protect women from violence. Over the years Theary has continued by her exemplary work and skilled leadership to personify the great potential and strengths of Cambodian women. She is a woman of integrity, courage and great commitment, who has sacrificed much in order to serve others.

Finally, I want to encourage RACHA staff to stay strong, celebrate your achievements and look ahead to the important work that remains to be done to improve the lives of women and children.

Mary Dunbar, Phnom Penh

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