THUN SOKLENG, 35, Commune Councilor of the Rokar Koh Commune
Ms. Sokleng is a respected leader in the commune and is known for her innate love for the community and her persistence in getting things done. She also underwent several challenges and tells the story of how she overcame them in becoming she is the person today.
19 years ago, Sokleng who was then a schoolgirl, was set to get married at a young age, just like the other girls from rural areas around the country. After her marriage at the age of 16, she moved in with her husband at Pring Toek Village, Rokar Koh. Not long after that, the nearby pond dried out, affecting the entire village. One of Sokleng’s mother-in-law’s cows died because of dehydration. She started talking to the village chief to see if there was any solution to the problem, but there was nothing they could do. One day, she learned that there was an NGO helping a nearby village build wells. Never giving up in finding a solution, she shared the story with the village chief again, believing he was the only person she should talk to. But the response was that he did not dare to talk to the “Barang” (or, “foreigner” in English). It was then that she decided to talk to him herself. Her efforts paid off. The NGO at the time helped build 25 more wells for the commune.
From there, her life changed. The commune chief realized she could actually work, so he often called her to help the village. After several years, she was selected as a commune councilor. She was surprised and happy but she did not get full support from her husband. One evening as he took her from work, they had a serious argument as there was no one taking care of the house. The argument resulted to their newly-bought motorbike being axed and hammered by her husband until it was broken. She was depressed but committed to solve the problem on her own, knowing that others would never listen to her if she could not even solve her own issues. She also believed that her commitment would eventually win his support. And she did it again. Using that as her credibility, Sokleng has helped solve a lot of issues of that nature and many more. She even helped another lady commune councilor from another province, whom she met in a seminar in Kampong Som. She too did not get support from her husband to which Sokleng related to very well, and proudly shared her story with the lady.
The community has given her the nickname “Srey Leng Neary Khum or Chumteav”, which literally translates to “a woman working in the commune hall” – an acknowledgement that she was proud of and makes her enjoy working even more.
Asked what her goal is in life, she replied “I need to learn more, especially in using computers, so that I can do more things”. “The most important thing for me now is that I want to leave a legacy for my family”, she added.
She also added that old village chiefs and commune councilors are not active. They tend to push the work away and let the young ones do it.
She also mentioned that people need appreciation and motivation. They need some sort of leverage in order to get respect they need to make decisions they know will be supported by the community. She further explained that acquiring support will be much, much easier if they are acknowledged as leaders of a community.