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Local Leaders Push for Total Sanitation

KAMPONG SPEU PROVINCE, CAMBODIA – More than 50 commune councilors from Kampong Speu province came together for their third Discover Conference in the Civic Champions leadership program. From 20 to 23 May, 2013, councilors representing Kong Pisey and Oudong districts marked the culmination of the third 90-day cycle of leadership mentoring by sharing their experiences and motivating each other.

Tuk Heang, Preah Niphean Commune Councilor, talking to a trainer during the conference 3

The purpose of the conference was to allow members of the community-of-action to take stock of their achievements and the challenges they met during the previous 90-day cycle. They exchanged ideas and approaches for improved community development, centered on leadership behaviors that can encourage greater action on a range of social issues, especially household sanitation. During the three-day meeting members had opportunity to learn, apply what they learnt, and discuss and share experiences with each other.

To be a civic leader and a role model in the community is not an easy task. Thirty-eight commune councilors presented to each other their success stories and obstacles.

Ms. Sok Chantou, a commune councilor from Snam Krapeou, presented to the audience that her success was due to her team working hand-in-hand to encourage latrine building in her commune. Now many households have built latrines, requiring an investment of up to 1 million riel ($250 USD) each, when before they just defecated anywhere they like.

“I held meetings with members of the commune councilors and met people on my own to convince those buying latrines to keep sanitation no matter on Saturday or Sunday”, said Chantou.

Commitment to improve community sanitation

Chantou’s story has motivated other commune councilors. A civic leader faces many obstacles in their work, including fear that can lead to failure. Mr. Aun Hengly, WaterSHED’s Executive Director, spoke to participants about overcoming fear and exhorted participants to ‘put their fears away’. He said that only then will they be able to open their minds to new, creative and useful ideas in leadership enabling them to play a more important role in sanitation. “All we have to do is control our fears and do what we planned to do.”

Tuk Heang, a Commune Councilor from Preah Nipean, remarked that “we must take over fear and get rid of factors that give rise to fear.” Like other participants, Heang chose success over fear when he was asked to choose.

The leadership champion

One of the most exciting events of the three-day conference was the competition among peers to recognize those who exhibited the highest standards of leadership. Councilors who had successfully achievement an assignment from the last conference could enter the competition to win gold, silver or bronze medals. The agreed assignment: encourage he adoption of a latrine by 60 households in your commune.

Many were shocked by the assignment as they did not believe they could do it. Mr. Chhea Chhim, Pang Lvea Commune Councilor, stood up and recalled his reaction when the assignment was proposed. “I strongly disagreed with the trainers who set such a hard work for us.” I did not believe we could it.”

In the end, Chhea and his team were voted by their peers to win the silver medal. He said at last, “actually there is nothing we cannot do – it is just we do it or not”.

Inspiring leaders for sanitation

Local leaders such as Ms. Sok Chantou and Mr. Chhea Chhim served as role models for other commune councilors who worked to make their communities open defecation free. Their success stories became motivational tools inspiring other local leaders to use their important roles to promote sanitation and other community development goals.

Chan Sreymom, a commune councilor and her colleague during the photo session in Discover Conference 3 in Kompong Speu

Leadership is not simply learned from a training course, nor is it achieved only by those who won medals at the conference. Many councilors who joined the community-of-action have proven their leadership behavior by making community development plans – and putting them into action with local residents.

“In fact, the commune councilors used their leadership already but they did not recognize it. This conference will enable them to realize their strength and use leadership skills to cultivate more productivity in community development, especially in sanitation”, said H.E. Chan Dara, Kampong Speu Deputy Governor.

Mr. Dara declared that all participants were inspiring leaders, even though some won medals and others did not. “Share what you learnt from the conference to your colleagues.” He also noted that such leadership can be applied in many areas such sanitation, infrastructure development and so on.

About Civic Champions

The Civic Champions project is a pioneering idea that brings rural leaders together to develop and grow their leadership capability to achieve better outcomes, to build a sense of community of leaders working together, sharing ideas and supporting each other.

This project is funded by Grand Challenges Canada. Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada and is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact in global health.

About WaterSHED
WaterSHED has the objective to bring effective, affordable water and sanitation products to market in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Providing affordable and desirable water and sanitation products increases adoption and proper use rates among the poor. Using proven, market-based principles, WaterSHED leverages the power of private enterprise to bring water, health and prosperity to the people of Southeast Asia.