During an unusually cool morning in early February local community members gathered at the Mith Samlanh center for the eighth Family Representative Elections. The elections attracted participants from 23 communities, totaling 82 candidates (61 women). The parent representative selected 23 candidates, 18 of whom are women.
The elections were originally created by Mith Samlanh program director Ms. Map Somaya in order to help communities provide timely and relevant information about children’s issues allowing community members to work with Mith Samlanh to resolve these problems.
Since the creation of the Family Representative Elections in 2004 the programs has proved a great success in educating and training community members on child protection.
The Family Representatives can help their communities and Mith Samlanh in the following ways:
- Providing timely information about child dangers such as sickness, child abuse, domestic violence, child trafficking, school/teacher bribes etc.
- Quickly facilitating solutions within communities. Any problems unable to be solved by the Family Representatives are transferred to Mith Samlanh or the authorities, depending on the case.
- Providing life skills to children’s families in the community.
Mith Samlanh has predefined criteria for candidate selection:
- Candidates must be volunteering in some capacity within the community.
- The candidate’s child/children must be a student of Mith Samlanh.
- The community in which the candidate resides cannot have fewer than ten families with children studying at Mith Samlanh.
- Candidates must be willing to help work for the community.
- Candidates must provide timely information to Mith Samlanh.
Although the criteria for candidate selection are many, each year Mith Samlanh has seen an increasing number of participants. The elections play a very important part in helping communities identify children in danger or at risk, life skills (HIV, drug and hygiene) and assist building confidence and empowerment of community leaders. Mith Samlanh staff hold weekly group discussions with Family Representatives to further educate and train those in the community.
Mith Samlanh has found that the Family Representative elections are a productive way of introducing and involving community members in social work. It is through this initiative community members can became productive and protective citizens of the community in which they live.