Ms. Ou Vanda through Cambodian Ageing Network demystifies age
When Mrs Vanda attained the manadatory retirement age of 60 years she had to retire from public service, although she was still very active and able to fulfill all her her roles as deputy director of the Battambang Provincial Health Department. Upon retirement she used to feel depressed and isolated from others. Upon her retirement te hreality of how the aged are discriminated and marginalised became apparent to her. She was surprised that even her former colleagues looked down on her. It seemed to her that loss of her position had totally devalued her as a person. The feeling was so intense that Mrs Vanda went into momentary depression.
However she was determined not to allow herself to remain that way. From her previous professional involvement with with HelpAge Cambodia (HAC) she had learned and been involved a lot in cooperation works to support older people, particularly in the health sector. She was very interested in having an Older People Association (OPA) in her village and was empowered by HAC to form an OPA in the village. She began mobilizing elderly people with a common interest to set up the OPA in order to share their common needs and issues that needed addressing. The OPA in the village was finally established in February 2018, and out of 67 members she was elected to lead the OPA most of whom are women and over 60 years old. Today Mrs. Ou Vanda at 63-year-old and very active is president of the Cambodian Ageing Network (CAN). How did she do it?
Through the active leading and good model in supporting older people in this new OPA, she was invited to join in a series of dialogues and consultative meetings with other OPAs and Federations on the establishment of an alliance for older people.
Upon the establishment of an alliance called Cambodian Ageing Network, she was successfully voted among 18 founders’ institutions as a president. This was totally beyond her expectation but she now holds the responsibility to lead this new CAN to progress and seek support to address aging issues, particularly in health-related sectors. The project has brought up a series of useful capacity building sessions and training for the CAN in terms of advocacy works (Age Demands Action), SDGs, Human Rights, Disability, and other significant topics for all members to accomplish in their committed strategy plan and goals.
“Most CAN members and I have gained a lot of knowledge and gradually improved work capacity for the elderly. I no longer feel discouraged and discriminated against upon learning from several pieces of training. I will stand up and show others what we can do as an older person”.
For the past three years, Mrs. Vanda has put a lot of her efforts in collaboration with all members in advocacy work and engaging with multi-stakeholder and key government through various dialogue and consultation to mainstream aging issues as well as to seek their support in addressing the needs of the elderly.
“It would be really hard for me to convince the government, particularly at national levels to support older people. With the support of CAN, I could represent the number of older people within several provinces and gained more confidence to talk to the government about the needs of older people”.
As a result, from a series of engagement meetings and dialogue with key government especially the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY), Vanda and the deputy president of CAN were nominated to join as the members of the Technical Working Group to review the National Ageing Policy 2017-2030. She is also a member of another Technical Working Groups among 5 institutions include MoSVY, Provincial Office of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (PoSVY), Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), Cambodian Ageing Network (CAN), and HelpAge Cambodia (HAC) for the development of IEC materials and videos production related to National Ageing Policy and Age Discrimination.
“I felt very empowered and motivated by being a member of this technical working group with MoSVY. I could say, it is my first time to join with the national government to work on policy level”.