Cambodia: Grassroots Leadership Development

As a post-conflict society, Cambodia continues to be seriously affected by the protracted civil war and genocide, where 2 million or more people died during the Khmer Rouge regime. The trauma suffered by those persons who lived through that period continues to affect future generations in rebuilding livelihoods, as well as infrastructure. Mechanisms that foster true community engagement are weak because of the societal breakdowns that cannot be rebuilt through material development only. Establishing trust and forming relationships in this environment is extremely difficult for community development workers. Therefore, gaining commitments from local communities are hindered by ongoing top-down, material-based approaches with token participation that do not touch the core well being of the people.

Through needs assessments with local partner organisations in Cambodia, a pilot project has been developed to begin implementation in 2011/12. Local partners, Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University of Battambang Branch(SBUBB) and the Dhammayietra Peace Walk, are proposing to initiate a grassroots leadership development training (GLD) for Cambodian monks, nuns/ lay women and men. This is because there is an urgent need to support basic education and training efforts that focus on developing leadership and management skills, participatory approaches to sustainable development from a Buddhist perspective where nonviolent approaches are used to address conflict. SEM and the partners believe this approach will be effective based on previous experience in the region, specifically in Burma. Working through SBUBB’s network of temples emerged as the entry point for the pilot project where monks, nuns and some lay persons are already recognized as spiritual and community leaders, as well as will have access to some remote communities.