From Housewife to Chief in Kampong Thom
13 January 2016
Kampong Thom, July 2015 – Yort Norng was living with her eight children and her husband, a soldier and the village chief of Samrong, Preah Damrei commune in a rural area in Kampong Thom. In 1986, her life drastically changed when her husband died.
Norng is highly motivated to improve the life of the villagers in Samrong village, “I really wanted to help my community,” she said enthusiastically.
Soon after this tragic event, her community chose her as the new village chief of Samrong, as they valued her strong engagement with the community.
Norng continued to serve her village as leader for 26 years before she was elected in 2012 as commune chief for her district in Preah Damer, Kampong Thom.
As commune council chief, Norng assumes the highest responsibility in her district. She is eager to full the expectations of her community.
Norng recalls the risk one took to be politically engaged at that point in Cambodia’s history, “I put the list with the names of the committee members in a bamboo pole, to protect the paper, and buried it in my garden, as it was dangerous to be a committee member”.
With only a secondary school education, Norng is trained in sewing. It was not until later in her life that she assumed the responsibility as village chief. In addition to her current role as commune council chief, Norng is a member of several committees in the commune of Preah Damer including the Red Cross, Association Health and Rights and is a member of the Health Center Management Committee.
Additionally, Norng is a member of the Health Centre Management Committee (HCMC), supported by GIZ’s Social Health Protection Project. The overall aim of the HCMC is to improve the cooperation between citizens, health staff and government staff in order to improve health services provided by health centres. She uses her longstanding experience to facilitate this cooperation. Improving health and well-being of citizens’ living in her commune is one of her overarching objectives.
In 1995 a friend recommend that Norng contact the GIZ – then GTZ, to learn more about their rural development programmes. The same GTZ that eventually supported her village provided financial support to the Cash and Rice Association and provided technical advice for the elections of the Cash and Rice Association Committee.
Her initial contact with the GTZ was the start of a longstanding collaboration between her and the local GIZ team.
Norng participated in many GTZ/GIZ trainings to improve her leadership skills and apply her knowledge for the greater good of her village and later also for her commune. She is very grateful that she received support from GTZ/GIZ, as it helped her gain confidence for her political position.
“I gained a lot of knowledge thanks to GIZ trainings and it helped me fulfil my tasks,” said Norng. “I still benefit from them. Before I felt blind.”
Story by Nary Da and Mrs. Kira Brings