The month of March is an important one for women’s history, to celebrate their achievements that historically have been frequently overlooked. A highlight of this is International Women’s Day which was celebrated on March 8th, a day that also celebrates prominent women both of the past and of the here and now. At Women Going Beyond we consider it therefore a perfect time to make a small tribute to some influential Cambodian women in the last decade. While they come from different fields, all of these women are influential in paving the way for girls in Cambodia and embody the goals of women’s empowerment and gender equality, which are simultaneously the goals of our organisation.
1.CHAN KUNTHEA has more than a decade of experience working with a variety of organisations that empower women and promote female-led leadership, extensively through JASS (Just Associates). Among these she recently joined a company called Agri-Smart, which provide innovative technical solutions to Cambodian farmers and thereby help fuel local economies.
In 2018, she co-wrote the book Diving Deep, Going Far (2018). It takes its title from the Cambodian proverb that a woman ‘cannot dive deep or go far’. The book is best described as a reality novel, inspired by interviews with 25 real women, though the characters themselves are fictional.
2. AT SOTHEAVY was awarded the Women of the Future of Southeast Asia Award 2020. After noticing the amount of discarded plastic floating in the ocean while on holiday in Kep province, she took out her phone and started recording. After her vlog went viral, she created Think Plastic, a campaign to raise awareness about the issue in Cambodia.
Working as a videographer, she has produced more than 80 videos on plastic and pollution to date, encouraging people to talk about environmental problems. During the pandemic she has also used her skills to spread awareness and necessary information about COVID-19.
3. ROS SOPHEAP is the Founder and Executive Director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, a non-profit with the aim of identifying and putting a stop to violence against women. They organise workshops, and frequently act as mediators between the authorities and individuals. This year she has been part of a new initiative in conjunction with the Cambodian government to tackle the increase in gender-based violence as a direct consequence of the COVID pandemic.
2. CATHERINE HARRY was named one of Forbes 30 under 30 in 2018 and for good reason. She started her blog A Dose of Cath when she was just 17, which at the time of writing now has over half a million followers on its Facebook page. The short videos she posts aim to create a platform to discuss many topics considered taboo in Cambodia, from menstruation to masturbation, she tackles it all.
Using the worldwide momentum generated by the MeToo Movement, she has strived to create a conversation in the country on sexual consent, taking her message to schools and facilitating workshops and discussion.
5. KOUNILA KEO has also appeared on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. After she started her first blog, blueladyblog, she gained attention after appearing at TEDx PnhomPenh to talk about how blogging was affecting the new generation of Cambodians. Since then she has worked as a freelance journalist for a variety of publications from Cambodia to Los Angeles, blogged for UNESCO, as well as working as a social media consultant for the Seliger Youth Forum in Russia. She’s a digital media powerhouse, with an extensive audience that she reaches to communicate about social issues in Cambodia and advocate for youth empowerment.
6. PAUV CHANDAVIN quit her job after working many years for NGOs. She co-founded a start up called Health D:Cam in June 2020, a digital health platform, after noticing many Cambodians don’t have access to good health and hospital information. They list hospitals on their website and also offer hospital booking services.
After quitting her job to be able to focus on developing the platform, she faced many challenges in taking her project through to creation, not least that many people, even her friends and family repeatedly told her to give up. Recently she was a guest on Apple podcasts Next Women Generation where she says:
“I motivate myself to follow my dream. I listen to my inner voice even though some people told me to give up. No matter what other people told me, I motivate myself to keep doing it.”
7. OMUOY HEANG is the founder and CEO of Camsolution Technology, a professional software development company. As well as providing software for other businesses, they also create other technology companies to increase the amount of women working in the tech industry itself, through education.
Together with her business partner, Socheata Touch, she has developed an e-commerce company, WeMall, to promote women’s economic empowerment through taking local made products and placing them in a global market.
8. TEP VANNY might already be a familiar Cambodian name. She is a prominent Cambodian human rights activist and founder of the activist group Boeung Kak 13, which was created to peacefully protest the government and private corporation’s development plans and eviction of residents around the Boeung Kak Lake. She was arrested in 2016 for protesting the detention of four other human rights defenders and unjustly imprisoned for two years before receiving a pardon.
This Women’s History month we wanted to pay a small tribute to these women and acknowledge their courage and dedication. They are an inspiration so that day by day in our NGO we continue to dedicate our effort to fighting for equal opportunities for men and women in Cambodia. Through the empowerment of women right from their beginning of their lives, opportunities to access a work market that is almost barred to them can be fostered.