Volunteering for Change: Cheatra's journey from volunteer to commune worker

Women wearing white shirt smiling at camera

For over a decade, Tith Cheatra has been dedicated to supporting her community, and her passion for making a difference led her to become a Commune Councilor in the Phnhi Meas Commune, situated in Koh Kong province, on the southwest coast of Cambodia. In the role she is responsible for the commune committee for women and children, advocating for their rights and welfare.

Cheatra’s journey into community service began as a volunteer for various CARE projects, most recently as a Community Accountability Facilitator. The ISAF (Implementation of Social Accountability Framework) project, where she took on the opportunity as a Community Accountability Facilitator, aims to empower citizens and improve local service delivery by leveraging community involvement and accountability.

Reflecting on her experiences, Cheatra shared, “My journey as a Community Accountability Facilitator began with an idea to support the community, especially vulnerable groups. I wanted to disseminate information about citizen rights in accessing local services. When people understand their rights and the standards at the commune, health center, and primary school levels, they become empowered to demand better services without fear.”

In the Community Accountability Facilitator role, Cheatra was able to gain a deep understanding of how to work with the local community, which helped her become more aware of local issues and needs. The experience prepared her for her role as a commune councilor. As a result of her dedication, she has been recognised as an instrumental member of the Joint Accountability Action Plan Committee in Phnhi Meas commune.

Cheatra volunteering as a Community Accountability Facilitator through the ISAF II project

The Joint Accountability Action Plan is a collaborative action plan jointly created by the community and service providers to improve service delivery. Cheatra’s presence in the committee, along with other stakeholders, ensured the incorporation of the action plan into the commune investment program. By advocating for these improvements and aligning them with her role as a commune councilor, she’s noticed significant strides in enhancing service delivery.

“More people in the community started accessing public services, and pregnant women from economically disadvantaged households began giving birth at health centers rather than at home or private clinics. Additionally, attitudes, punctuality, and overall service delivery significantly improved.”

Cheatra also noticed the improvement of women present at the community level, although there are still clear limitations in them having the courage to actively raise their concerns. Cheatra, now as Commune Councilor for the Commune Committee for Women and Children, strives to create an enabling environment for women to speak up more so their concerns and needs are heard.

The ISAF project encourages meaningful civic engagement, empowering citizens to have a voice in local governance, improving accountability, and enhancing service delivery. The project’s success lies in the dedication of people like Cheatra, who carry their volunteering experiences into their professional roles, continuing to make lasting and sustainable difference in their communities.

As Cheatra puts it, “I am happy to witness more people accessing public services. My experiences as a Community Accountability Facilitator have been invaluable in my role as a commune councilor. By understanding the needs of the community and involving them in decision-making through the Joint Accountability Action Plan, we have brought about positive and lasting changes. I believe that sustained collaboration and community engagement are the keys to a better future for all.”

The supporting meaningful civic engagement for improved accountability by leveraging digital technologies project (ISAF-II) is funded by the European Union in Cambodia.