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Champion of the less fortunate

Sen David / Khmer Times Share:
Disability advocate Nhem Morokat. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Woman’s Affairs Nhem Morokat has spent 15 years helping disabled people. She spoke about her work to Sen David

KT:  Can you tell us when you first started helping people with disabilities?

Nhem Morokat : Before I began helping disabled people, I was a reporter in 1994. And then I became an official at City Hall and then the National Assembly. In 2002, I moved to the Ministry of Woman’s Affairs. While there, I was promoted to work on aiding disabled people. Once that work began, I fell in love with it because I admire the strength of the people I help, who need help more than others.

KT: How would you describe the situation for disabled people in Cambodia?

NM: The government has many programmes to help disabled people. The government also encourages them to work at state and private institutions and Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife always support disabled groups. I think that the situation of disabled people is better now compared with the past. The government supports them more now than ever before. But I work with them directly, and there are still obstacles to overcome. They still face discrimination when looking for jobs or even just from their neighbours.

KT: What is your contribution to helping disabled people?

NM : I have my job at the ministry, but I also do social work on top of that, like creating a clean space for them to work on handicrafts at Wat Phnom. This space allows them to create art, such as paintings, to sell and support themselves. Many of them make use of the space, and I also use it to meet them. I also look to charities to raise money for their needs.

KT:   What obstacles do you face when trying to help disabled people?

NM:  Working with disabled people can be difficult. When I work with ordinary people, things move quickly, but sometimes with disabled people things move slower because they could be blind, or deaf. I must allocate more time for them. I must be their eyes sometimes. I also have to support them financially sometimes, and help them find rooms to rent and help them clean those rooms. The house owners do not want to rent to them because they think that the disabled people are ugly and bring bad luck to their homes. They suffer from many discriminations. Their lives are difficult and I try to make it easier for them.

KT: What is your plan to help them in the future?

NM: I plan to remain focussed on helping them and ignoring accusations that come my way while I do. Because I help them, sometimes my family says I don’t pay attention enough to them. Also, sometimes other government officials accuse me of only helping them because I want to be famous, which is not true. I help them from my heart.

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