The Trap of Manipulation in Women’s Empowerment

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Women need to recognize and use their power. (KT Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring)

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Being a woman is, in itself, a position of power. But most of us women just don’t realize it. That’s why empowering women is one of the keys to developing  a country. Empowering women starts with education.

We should be aware of all forms of abuse, from mental to physical to sexual abuse and exploitation. 

Emancipation is the next step. Women can financially become independent or remain one of the financial pillars for the family, if not the bread winner. The third step is for women to become leaders of the community or the country. 

The Cambodian Millennium Development Goals (MDG) emphasize that it is essential to promote gender equality to empower women.

Non-government organizations (NGOs) such as  Konrad Adenauer,  International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), work on promoting young women to become leaders. Programs such as Future Leaders or advocacy training favors and encourages young women to stand out. 

The efforts of both the NGOs and the government are very worthy. Some female public figures have emerged and integrated into the community and political parties. We have started to see women elected as chiefs of communes from both the ruling and opposition parties. The number of Cambodian women occupying key positions in the government, civil societies and the private sector keeps on increasing.

This is very encouraging, but the other side of the coin shows some women who end up becoming tools for opportunistic NGOs and politicians. Many young women become icons without realizing that they were manipulated by social media, their friends, and/or their colleagues, or recruiters in NGOs or political parties. 

Why women are targeted ? 

We women have natural power; we just need to realize – and recognize – it.

Being regarded as weak and fragile, we attract a lot of sympathy. 

Young women generally inspire love in all men, and therefore hope they can influence their opinions and actions. You can see these new rising stars on social media. Young and attractive, they brought lotus flowers to anti-riot forces and knelt down and cried – on command – in front of the cameras and camcorders for the thousands of likes and comments on Facebook. They insulted the government with their bad words and encouraged other opposition supporters to do the same.

Old women and little girls inspire trust, compassion and sympathy towards the public. Therefore, they influence the public’s opinion to join their cause.

I remember the face of Yaom Bopha’s children and the old Beung Kak Lake lady. How one can be that cruel as to use force on them or oppress them? That is the power they count on. Anything those women do, they win sympathy from the first glance. 

Why are these women victims of manipulation?

On one hand, we women are very sensitive. This is our strong point, but also our Achilles heel. Most of us are sensitive to flattery and praise. Sweet words work most of the time. We like to be surrounded by those people  generally from NGOs or political parties  who make us feel confident in ourselves. 

They are the people who tell us – or make us feel –  that we are pretty, desirable and smart. They also imply that we are doing all the right things by opposing injustice, environmental destructors, corruption and decadence. Of course, some of us are ignorant enough to follow an ideology that we believe is for the right cause, such as extremist nationalism, without considering all the consequences of our speeches or actions.

On the other hand, we can also be sensitive to threats of all forms. I remember a social media icon who received many insults and threats for the silly clips she posted on her social media accounts. It was done by pure online bullies and she cracked. She mindlessly engaged in politics as an icon.

As humans, some of us are greedy. Becoming a public figure can be a lucrative business. You can live and a make profit from the donations to your cause.

Some activists get international awards and win prizes that are like a jackpot. Once icons have been  transformed – or created – others are desperate to follow that model by radicalizing their actions. One example is the incident on August 27 when some women from Boeung Kak Lake threw eggs at the Singapore Embassy  just because they heard that a Singaporean company was going to buy a piece of land in the area. 

The bravery of our female land activists – in physical confrontation against local private security or the police – just to get good pictures of injured women is questionable. So is their verbal and physical provocation. 

But I do not think that it’s constructive. Nor will it serve their main cause, which is to fight injustice for the poor and the vulnerable. It’s rather to satisfy their selfish goals and egos in the long run.

What should we women do?

I’m convinced that Boeung Kak Lake, Borei Keila and other ongoing land disputes and social injustices must be resolved as soon as possible for the interest of everyone and society. Fighting social injustice and corruption is a just cause. But I believe that as a good citizen and a victim of any social injustice,  one should not lose focus of the ridiculous ritual. One should not fall into the trap of being manipulated by political parties or NGOs to serve their political purpose.

Aggressiveness doesn’t promote our cause, neither does being manipulated. We are over that. There are many ways to convey messages to the public without having to break the law or ethics of non-violence. 
 

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