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Cambodia: Gender Inequality Hinders Buddhist Nuns Playing A Greater Role in Community Building

By Kalinga Seneviratne

Undong Mountain, 12 Oct:  “When the war ended I have lost all my family. I was alone. I came here 27 years ago and I have found happiness now” says 71 year old Sentcheant, one of 10 nuns spending their old age together in this Buddhist nunnery, only one of two such places in Cambodia.

The Cambodian Khmer people have a proud Buddhist heritage going back to the 5th century, which is epitomized by the ancient Buddhist monuments of Ankor Wat. Even here in Udong, which is a 18th century Khmer capital city (about 2 hours drive from Phnom Penh), some 101 temples have been built by the kings.

Sobunvycenter“Our kings built temples to preserve our culture, save Buddhism and our Khmer language” said Chan Sobunvy, secretary general of the Association of Nuns and Laywomen of Cambodia (ANLWC).

This rich Buddhist Khmer heritage most Cambodia are very proud of today was all but destroyed during the communist Khmer Rouge rule under Pol Pot. Thousands of Buddhist monks were killed and temples destroyed. But, since the UN supervised elections in 1993, there’s been a revival of Buddhism here.


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