Chenda played a drunk husband shouting at his wife, as 60 neighbours and friends watched under a big tent in Battambang, Cambodia. The play’s story – a violent partner, gossiping neighbours and unresponsive authorities - is part of a grassroots effort to spark community discussions about domestic violence, led by a nonprofit, Lakhon Komnit (‘thinking theater’). Then the actors performed the scenes again but this time, the audience called “stop, stop!” when they wanted a character to behave differently. The performers are grappling with the same question. Chenda is living in a shelter while her real-life husband is in a drug detention center. Playing the lead role has made her “feel that I gained confidence [myself] – not by someone giving it to me”. One in five Cambodian women report experiencing abuse from an intimate partner.

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