Lim Heang Heng is an International Peace Training Institute (IPTI) alumna as a part of the 2016 South East Asian cohort. The experience of attending the training and the mentorship she received has been invaluable to her work and opened her eyes to the potential of mediation. 

The Three Pillars

Lim has three goals in her life, which she summarizes into three stages. She stated, “I want to be a person that offers three services, by the age of 40, I want to be 1) a mediator engaging in political or diplomatic dialogue while also being a person contributing to the nonprofit sectors and the national government sector. 2) I would like to be a mediator coach for my next generation of mediators who are interested in this field, offer some of my time to do evening lectures on mediation and inspire young professionals; 3) have a peace song of my own published and produced, one that comforts people.” 

She shared that her favorite lyrics to the song, “Top of the World” which include the following phrases she feels one should never forget:

Such a feeling’s coming over me
There is wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream

Everything I want the world to be
Is now coming true especially for me
And the reason is clear, it’s because you are here
You’re the nearest thing to heaven that I’ve seen

I’m on the top of the world looking down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around
Your love’s put me at the top of the world

Something in the wind has learned my name
And it’s telling me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There’s a pleasing sense of happiness for me

There is only one wish on my mind
When this day is through I hope that I will find
That tomorrow will be just the same for you and me
All I need will be mine if you are here

Mediation Journey and MBBI

As an incoming Peace Program Manager of Women Peace Makers (WPM) Organization, Lim is a certified mediator, gender equity specialist, and women peacebuilder alumni MBBI. Lim stresses the inspiration she got from her grandmother, who was forced to leave her home country to Cambodia. Lim states, “my grandmother and mother’s passion and believe in us was motivational, supporting us going to school, wanting us to get a Master’s degree even though my grandmother did not know what a master’s degree was amazed me.”  

She also stated, “growing up I always lived with my grandmother who did not have the opportunity to go to school and she could not read or write. She is 100 percent Chinese, so growing up my interest in peace really started. I was more interested in the concept of peace earlier than mediation. First came peace and then mediation came later. The hardship history of my grandmother’s life taught me to feel empathy about other individuals than ourselves.

Inspired by her grandmother, Lim has found women empowerment a game changer to achieve gender equity. Firmly believe in her role model Michelle Obama’s iconic quote “When they go low, you go high.” In fact, she was drawn to the field of mediation at an early age.  She stated, “I did not know that I would be interested in alternative dispute resolution.” Mediation was brought to her attention in light of the great feedback and motivation from her mentors in this field. She received positive encouraging comments to pursue the field of mediation to the fullest.

In one opportunity, she was able to assist Cambodia negotiations and her mentor saw enormous potential in maximizing her skills in light of her ability to negotiate and facilitate conversation spaces for the business disputes in Cambodia. This led her to also learn about mediation from an academic side. Her thesis was on diplomatic interventions exploring reconciliation, mediation, and inquiry specifically how they influence and lead mediation dynamics. She was fully funded to pursue her studies.

In fact, Lim got to engage with MBBI in 2015 at the Romania Congress. She then deepened her engagement with MBBI in 2016 at the IPTI, Southeast Asian Cohort. The call for participants offered a platform to put her skillsets into practice. She was awarded the opportunity to go and the experience itself was transformative. She states, “that time was the first time I got to meet community peacebuilders from Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Nepal, all coming from conflicting areas of the region.”

Legal Background

Lim considers her legal background to be an asset. She states, “it is greatly beneficial because in mediation, from time to time, there is legal terminology and as a mediator, you do not only speak with one party but deal with interconnected cases.” In fact, through her new position with the Gender Responsive Mediation (GRM) project, her legal background is even more important. The GRM project focuses on helping regulate domestic family civil dispute cases by bringing them to mediation. They also offer mediation trainings to local authorities. Throughout this process, her legal studies supplement her findings. She shares that the mediation paradigm within the context of Cambodian family disputes should adjust and incorporate gender dynamics. She states, I am interested in gender sensitivity because, in family disputes and domestic violence disputes, gender is important. It sheds insight into a women’s power and expression of self.” This is a 4-year project with their donor partner to see how mediation mechanisms can improve within the context of Cambodia.

Teamwork

Lim has the confidence to carry out gender-sensitive mediation and peace program at WPM with the WPM Peace Program team and all respective stakeholders as well as the local communities. She states, “it is a wonderful group, we have the same DNA. My team and Director are the architects of the GMR project. I offer my support and skillset to complement this dream.” Furthermore, she stresses that their focus is on women peacemakers and conflict transformation with a focus on ‘Do No Harm.’ She states, “we try to analyze how the work we do brings better efficiency in what we want to achieve.”

Therefore, she is able to stay in contact and foster greater relationships with the ministry of women’s affairs, mediation experts, and local organizations. She also works with other government representatives. This is a role that she has recently started working in and is excited about future prospects. She states, “for me, I have a combination of different feelings – of feeling responsible for the project, feeling accountable for the many lives that we will affect.  I also feel fulfilled, I see my flexibility of working with the local authorities and the stakeholders as key in my role. She also feels responsible for the management of the project spirit and donor relations. She goes on to further state, “I tell myself that this will be an interesting challenging journey.”

Past Experiences

Throughout her services, Lim served as a Program Manager at Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Cambodia (KAS Cambodia), a German foundation striving to support Cambodian people in fostering dialogues, building networks, and enhancing scientific projects. While at KAS Cambodia, she managed Youth and Peace Building Project with Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (TSGM), Remembrance between Cambodia and Germany with Memorial Museums Department at the Topography of Terror Foundation and Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam).

Her role involved her in peace project consultation, evaluation, and feedback, to establish a workshop framework best implemented to accomplish youth understanding the value of differences, conflict resolutions, and for Cambodia to not repeat the tragedy and genocide. From this particular role, she reflects on the importance of being self-aware. She states, “it is important to think about the entire system. Relationship building is key and if you are doing the grassroots work, then, the principle of neutrality is important as well as, listening skills, facilitative learning design (FLD), and understand the environment, the actual target room. It is also important to be optimistic.”

Prior to KAS Cambodia, Lim offered her services with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO Cambodia) as a Gender Equality Specialist where she focused on Gender-mainstreaming and the importance of women’s role in the rice value chain. Lim holds a Master’s Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell), USA, and a Bachelor of Law and English from the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE) and University of Cambodia (UC). She is also a graduate of the Harpswell Foundation, a Leadership and Training Center for university women. She had also received one-on-one mediation training from the Principals at the Resolutions, LLC, Professor Eric D. Green, and Carmin C. Reiss, JAMS Resolutions Experts in Boston Area, and Face to Face Mediation in Community Court.

Optimism

Lim throughout her entire life and message to the larger MBBI audience is the importance of optimism especially during these difficult challenging times with the pandemic. She states, “you can be grateful for the breath you are taking, for the internet connection that you have. Being thankful for the lights and remembering that this too shall pass.” She goes on to say that overthinking is not a healthy avenue. If one is able to simplify the stressors and know that there is nothing beyond human power, then there will be space to grow as a mediator.

She states, “We can practice our understanding of others. Build capacity to understand our team especially when it comes to thinking about their potential to operate their full performance. In my team, we have huge diversity. We Cambodian, Cambodian-Chinese, Cambodian-Muslim, Cambodian-Vietnamese, and others.”

Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer