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Community Voice: “MOTHER” 

by Sokha Srey, Voice Partnership & Grants Specialist from Voice in Cambodia 


Persons living with disabilities & elderly community members performed “Mother,” shedding light on the challenges faced by vulnerable groups
Persons living with disabilities & elderly community members performed “Mother,” shedding light on the challenges faced by vulnerable groups


‘Mother’ is a new play developed and performed by a Community of Practice (CoP) in Voice Cambodia composed of people with disabilities from WWD-LAN / KHEN, the elderly community members from the Older People Association (OPA), and in collaboration with Lakhorn Kumnit Organization (LKO) and the community key actors. This first performance marks a triumph of inclusivity and the courage to address sensitive topics directly.  


The story of “Mother” was created by groups of community key actors who shed light on the challenges faced by vulnerable groups such as the elderly and persons living with disabilities. These groups have shared common issues regarding access to free healthcare, financial stability and physical barriers. The CoP composed of these groups shares issues through forum theatre to engage stakeholders, relevant authorities and the local community. By comprehensively exploring the challenges, the performance provides the audience with a profound understanding of the experiences, perspectives and potential solutions for individuals with disabilities and the elderly.  


“Mother” specifically exposes the hidden burdens elderly people face, especially those who must care for their grandchildren while the parents are away earning income. While this role may be perceived as usual within cultural norms, it necessitates change. Unpaid caregiving places additional strain on the elderly, who are already grappling with health issues and financial constraints. The forum provides a platform for elderly participants to voice their concerns, challenging the misconception that intergenerational dialogue is culturally prohibited.  


In addition, the narrative highlights the challenges and importance of social protection programs, particularly the accessibility of social assistance, social pensions for older people, ID-poor cards and Disability ID cards for people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  


Community members experiencing the forum theatre
Community members experiencing the forum theatre

A conversation among the cast, crew and organisers after the performance.
A conversation among the cast, crew and organisers after the performance.


Bonny Coome, Co-founder and Managing Director of LKO shared personal highlights from the event, noting the enthusiastic attendance and active involvement of a significant number of individuals with disabilities. Despite prevalent discrimination, it is usually the physical environment that restricts the participation of people with disabilities. However, on this occasion, that was not the case. Bonny also highlighted the groundbreaking moment when Chief Em Sophal of Ochar Commune assumed a role in the forum theatre session, marking the first instance of a Cambodian government representative directly participating in the theatrical action. Government representatives usually give comments from their seats or share their thoughts as part of a formal speech. They don’t usually take on a role in the drama. 


“I was thrilled and proud that our CoP groups performed well even though we had limited time for training and rehearsal and had never experienced a theatre performance on the stage before. I am also glad we had the opportunity to engage in this theatrical activity — our story that describes our situation, hardships and neglect. Performance not only brought attention to all for the lack of support for people with disabilities and older people concerning social protection, but also, specifically to the authorities, to share the solution and take role in the activity.”

Dim Sophea, a member of the Women with Disabilities


This unique occurrence exemplified the power of forum theatre, where a Commune Chief, in the role of a grassroots community member, sought support from a grassroots community member playing the role of a Commune Chief.  


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