ACTIVISM

Fighting for Women's Rights in Cambodia

Nearly 40 years after escaping war-torn Cambodia for Berkeley, Mu Sochua is the most prominent female member of the nation’s parliament. And from that platform, she has also become a fervent advocate for women’s rights in a country where women are all too often treated as second-class citizens. “I have to be careful not to push things too far,” she said. “I have to be very, very careful about what I bring from the West, to promote women’s rights within the context of a society that is led by men.” Mu Sochua has campaigned for women at various levels of government, including as the minister for women’s affairs in the 1990s, during which time she fought against child abuse, marital rape, violence against women, human trafficking and the exploitation of female workers. “People are aware about gender,” she said, reflecting on the slow shift in mentality. “It’s a new Cambodian word: ‘gen-de.’ People are aware that women have rights.” Sochua attended the opening night of The Daily Beast's Women in the World Summit last month, where actress Julyana Soelistyo portrayed her in a dramatic reading of the play SEVEN.