“Building Confidence of Young Women”

By Sim Socheata/Oxfam and Chan Kunthea/JASS

At least 100 young women and men from Phnom Penh and five provinces celebrated the International Youth Day under the theme “Building Confidence of Young Women”, organized by Cambodia Young Women Empowerment Network (CYWEN), Youth Council of Cambodia (YCC) and Oxfam in Phnom Penh on 12 August.

This platform brought together a range of activities aimed at exposing young women and men to experiences, identified barriers and how to overcome those barriers, art and innovation as a way to express oneself, discussion and reflection and bring in innovative idea in exploring potential of young people.

A social media posting was launched prior to the event. 21 diverse posts were published on social media, running from 1st Aug to the official event day, where hundreds of people clicked likes, commented and shared.

Motivational quotes sharing ways to build confidence and overcome barriers were posted and below are some highlights.

The event day started with morning session focused on women speakers sharing personal experiences of how to overcome barriers as indigenous, disability, women vlogger, and women working in male-dominated environment.

Rojanet shared her experiences growing up as a girl child with disability due to polio disease; with her own determination, strong support from family and siblings, Rojanet finished high school and continued to major in IT at the university. She currently works as the Program Manager at Cambodia Disabled People Organisation, with ambition to advance her career goal and higher education.

Chompey’s  narrative as a  Jarai ethnic having to overcome the indigenous tradition expected of indigenous women and girls having to comply with traditional expectations (as a wife, tending children and working on the farm) touched everyone’s heart. Her assertion and determination to claim the opportunity for girl’s education the same as the sons and those of Khmer children enabled her to stand by her goal, even it meant going on hunger strike as a protest with her parents.

Growing up in Cambodia where social and cultural norms shaped the attitude and perception of young people, Catherine uses video blog on Facebook to talk on sexual and reproductive health, the taboo topic that Cambodian people don’t openly discuss. Her aim is to break the status quo and change people’s attitude and perspective toward sexuality and women.

The audience also heard from the fashion designer/founder of Lotus Silk, San Vannary and General Secretary of Cambodia Youth Network, Om Vanna – both articulating the challenges being a young woman, wife and mothers, woman entrepreneur, and the ways in which they overcomes barriers in the largely male-dominated working environment.

In the afternoon there was a small group session to reflect, share and use creative ways to share back to the plenary session. A mix of art performance (songs, role plays) were presented and the Messenger Band sang about the challenge young women in garment factories experience and send a message of hope to young people.

As partners and organizing team, CYWEN, YCC, and Oxfam were proud that we were able to create space for our participants to learn from the speakers, and reflect and feedback in small group discussion was very important as they did not just listen but could share their thoughts.

To talk about women should be simple but it is not really easy because of how Cambodia society has shaped us and led to us internalising our thoughts. Therefore this International Youth day has given space for young women and men to share their thoughts and experiences and seek ways to explore their potential and to build up from that level.

Real experiences shared bythe speakers touched the heart of women and men who joined the event and made it easier for them to engage during the group discussion. The creative way to present their discussion illustrated their deep understanding of what they are talking about and made the workshop lively and fun in a very important way.

"We are surely, young women could move forwards to reach out their dream," said Chhorvin Noy, CYWEN Coordinator.