A bit about Cord

At the heart of Cord’s vision is a world where everyone can experience peace and live life to the fullest. With a mission to foster thriving relationships between individuals, communities, and those in power, Cord believes that peaceful interactions can bring about transformative change. Their focus on resolving conflicts and building trust within societies serves as a cornerstone for lasting transformations. Cord empowers local organizations through training, enabling them to engage effectively with authorities, even in areas marked by historical tensions. As a pioneering force in the sector, Cord’s peacebuilding approach has become influential, inspiring methods adopted by numerous organizations. Currently operating in Burundi, Uganda, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Bangladesh, Cord stands as a beacon of hope and progress in creating a better, more harmonious world.

Supporting Environmental Defenders to protect their local environment.

Across the Mekong region of South East Asia, years of government policies that have prioritised economic development over the protection of the communities and their local environment are having huge environmental impacts. Successive governments have enabled private companies to irresponsibly extract resources, claim land and emit pollutants, resulting in a decline in biodiversity, soil degradation, and deforestation. This has contributed to a wider vulnerability to the most extreme impacts of climate change with the increasing frequency of extreme heat and flooding events and resulting in increasing pressures on local livelihoods.

Indigenous communities often have a scared relationship with their land, and hold an alternative understanding of relationships with nature, land, water and relationships of power, that contrasts with extractivism and environmental damage. Yet, their legal rights to the land are often ignored, with land confiscated and valuable resources removed. Internationally there is a growing recognition that indigenous communities must play a vital role in mitigating the worst effects of climate change and promotion the protection of local biodiversity. However indigenous people, in particular women, are often overlooked and excluded. Women in these communities are disproportionately affected by climate change and issues of land grabbing, pollution and biodiversity loss, as they often work closest to natural resources, in their traditional roles, such as securing food, collecting water, and gathering non-timber forest products.

Across the region communities have developed local environmental groups to promote the sustainable use of local resources, and to protect their local environment from illegal land grabbing, illegal logging, and exploitative farming and fishery practices. However, women face significant barriers to participate in the protection of their local environment. Patriarchal norms and discrimination have excluded and silenced women. Women who do participate in environmental defence are often vulnerable and marginalised and do so at risk to their personal safety and reputation. And yet, to rise above their adversity, they show amazing courage and tenacity.

Through the EMPOWER project Cord is working with partners in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar to support women to play a greater role in the protection of their local environment, and to have a greater voice in the policies that affect them.

Women leading the way in Environmental Defence in Thailand

Stories from the EMPOWER Project

Kar Vannork's Journey in Environment Conservation and Community Building

Kar Vannork, a 31-year-old member of the Veal Thmor Forestry Community in Karmas village in Cambodia, has had a remarkable journey of empowerment. Initially Vannork would never have considered participating in environmental protection, however, through working with Cord, and local partners Development and Partnership in Action (DPA). She has had a remarkable journey of empowerment and transformation, initially believing that forest patrol was a task meant for men and rarely participated in such activities to becoming an avid advocate and active Environmental Defender and role model for those around her.

Vannork has played a pivotal role in protection her local environment, using the knowledge and confidence developed through EMPOWER, she officially submitted a complaint of land encroachment to local authorities, resulting in the protection of sacred ancestral land. Her leadership has inspired more women to become involved in environmental protection. Through her unwavering dedication and determination, she has overcome social barriers and hierarchies that previously limited the opportunities available to women. Her achievements stand as a testament to the limitless potential of women in NRM and inspire others to follow in her footsteps.


I wanted to join the forest protection activities because I want to know the Community Forestry activities and its border, inspect and prevent forest crimes, and understand the current situation. I want to gather data on forestland clearing and share it with other indigenous people and local authorities to address these issues. I have also acquired the necessary skills, such as using GPS to locate and demarcate community land.

Expressed Vannork with determination

Chansouk Vongsomsak, Samkhang village, Lao PDR: Women Environmental Defenders Demonstrating Greater Courage in Advocacy Work

Chansouk Vongsomsak is an environmental defender from Lao PDR. Due to patriarchal norms in the past women from her village participating in forestry patrols and in the local Village Forestry and Land Committee were only assigned to cook and serve meals and refreshments to the men.

In late 2022, Chansouk Vongsomsak was selected to participate in EMPOWER and has attended workshops on topics including leadership, facilitation, and public speaking. EMPOWER has also provided a safe space to interact amongst like-minded women in the community.

Due to EMPOWER, Chansouk has said, “I can now talk clearly in public”. This has been evident in a number of meetings she has attended and actively engaged in. Her performance was noticed by the local Women’s Union and she was recently appointed as the Deputy Leader for the Women’s Union in her village- a group responsible for advocating for women’s rights. As a member of her village environmental committee, she is now in charge of handling funds, and sharing the importance of environmental protection with other villages. She also conducts awareness raising activities relating to forestry law and forest fire prevention measures.

If I can use my voice to teach and make communities understand why the forest is vital, why we need to halt forest fires I believe our community forest will be protected.

Chansouk Vongsomsak

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