Category Archives: LIFT

Youth of the week: Morm Doungseth


AS soon as I stopped in front of a flat in Sen Sok district, I could hear a song playing inside. In the song, a man described his struggle to become a star by leaving his family, relatives and friends in the provinces and coming to the city to pursue his dream.

When I opened the door to the flat, there was a young man sitting on a plastic chair playing an electric guitar and singing along to the song playing on a nearby CD player. It was Morm Doungseth, our youth of the week for this issue.

While turning off the CD player and putting his guitar next to a big electric keyboard, Morm Doungseth told me the song I had just heard was one he had written to reflect his life story. He said he had just finished recording the song using his CD player, and with no musical instruments other than  his guitar and his voice.

Morm Doungseth, 18, has been working as a singer for Mohahang, a Cambodian music production house, for almost six months. Six songs by him, produced by Mohahang, can be found in markets; others are waiting in the queue to be included on forthcoming albums.

Morm Doungseth left his home town in Kampot province for Phnom Penh in 2008 and got into the music industry a few months later. “I’ve loved music since I was young, and in my free time I listened to all kinds of music and sang along,” he says.

“After my friends and my older brother saw I had talent, they encourage me. Since then, I have focused my efforts on music .”

Since he arrived in Phnom Penh, Morm Doungseth has worked as a DJ and singer in various nightclubs. But he doesn’t want to spend his whole working life doing that, so he’s seeking an opportunity to become a professional singer.

He sent an application to Mohahang, and at the same time joined a singing competition at Bayon TV. He left the competition at Bayon TV after being selected to be a signer at Mohahang, even though he had almost reached the final round of the contest.

As well as singing, Morm Doungseth  can play guitar and keyboards, because he studied at the Royal University of Fine Arts in 2009 and 2010. Working while studying will lead to problems if a student fails to manage his or her time well. As well as being a singer who is gaining more recognition every day, Morm Doungseth will be a grade 12 student in the next year.

“I won’t let my career interfere with my studies,” he says, adding that he always gives priority to study. “I study in the morning, I go to the company in the afternoon, and I review my lessons at night,” he says of his time-management plan.

“I will pursue a bachelor’s degree in English literature, because I love that subject, and in the future I will choose a job based on the subject I have studied, while working part-time or occasionally singing because that’s my favourite thing and my natural talent, so I shouldn’t throw it away.”

01/09/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 86 published on August 31, 2011
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Young people remain blissfully unaware of the hidden dangers of mobile phones


ACCORDING to a 2008 census, Cambodia has a population of 13,395,682, with a growth rate of 1.54 per cent a year.

BuddeCom, a telecommunications research website, has estimated that this year, Cambodia has 8.4 million mobile subscribers.

With the rise in modern technology, and especially the introduction of the “smart” phone, mobile phones can be used for many purposes. People use their phones to take pictures, capture video, record sound, play music, listen to the radio, watch television and, perhaps most pervasively, surf the internet.

Cambodia now has nine mobile operators, up from a mere three in 2006.  These companies are competing constantly to provide the best calling rates and lowest mobile internet charges.

Those charges can be based either on data transferred or based on a package deal.  The former usually cost  about one cent per 100kb; the latter are usually around $3 a month.

These rates are not too expensive, especially compared with rates in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia.

Thanks to these reasonable rates, mobile-phone manufacturers have recently churned out a number of internet-capable phones at affordable prices around $30.

Some phone manufacturers co-operate with mobile operators by allowing users to surf the web free of charge within a given period of time.

All this means that today, there are more Cambodians, especially young people, using mobile phones than ever before.

In the past, people needed to take their laptops and USB internet modems with them whenever they wanted to access the internet.  Now, simply having a mobile phone is good enough, even for editing and emailing documents.  This is a good sign: it allows people to be more productive, even when they are on holiday or outside their office. Social networking sites have also grown in prominence now that your average phone can access the internet.

This has helped transform traditional methods of communication, with Facebook messages and/or text messages replacing letters and even email.

Nevertheless, technology  works well only when used as intended.  If not, it can lead to problems that are difficult to control.

In local newspapers across the country, stories are telling how students used their mobile phones to cheat during the recent national high-school exams.In a story titled “Ministry admits some exam proctors were bribed”, published in the Cambodia Daily newspaper on July 27, May Sopheaktra, a member of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, was quoted as saying:  “Mobile [phones] are popular in exam centres this year.  They’re used to make calls and get answers through the internet.

Students call friends to pass on the exam question, then call back during an exam break to get the answer.”

On the one hand, this is nothing new.  An article published by AFP on August 18, 2010 detailed how Cambodian students used their mobile phones to call for answers during an exam.

What’s new this year is that students are using their internet connections to acquire answers. This is only a suggestion, but I think  stricter rules should be placed on mobile-phone use during next year’s national school examinations.  Students should not be able to bring their mobile phones into the testing centres.

As chatting via mobile internet becomes more popular among young Cambodians, we need to make sure we are using the technology responsibly, or it may have drastic effects on our academic, professional and personal lives.

In some cases, reports have surfaced of students simply stepping out of the classroom to talk on their mobile phones if the subject being taught doesn’t interest them.

For people who lack time-management skills, using a mobile phone can prevent them completing any of the tasks they set themselves.

In conclusion, people should be using mobile-phone technology in a way that brings them success in life, rather than simply for pleasure.

19/08/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 84 published on August 17, 2011

Constructive Cambodian: The effect of wearing clothes of youth


I like to see them wearing short skirts, but I wouldn’t want my sister or my girlfriends to do it

Clothing is used not only to stay warm and preserve privacy but can also be an expression of personal identity and national culture. For example, traditional Cambodian fashion choices helped define our culture of modesty: small shorts, short skirts, and revealing tops used not to be very common.

But changes have begun taking place in recent years, especially among urban dwellers who began sporting more Western clothing styles. Even more recently, Cambodians have adopted styles from Korea and Hong Kong.

It’s now common to see young Cambodians wearing revealing clothes almost anywhere. Take a drive around the city, and you will see teens, some younger than 18, wearing very short, revealing skirts as if they couldn’t care less.

Even when going to school, some students would rather wear stylish shorts and skirts than obey formal Khmer student dress codes. Wearing these types of clothes can be thrilling and attention-getting, but can have negative consequences as well.

Female students wearing short skirts can distract male students, and even teachers, from doing their job, thus lowering the quality of education.

In an interview with the German press agency DPA, an English literature student said he had noticed many of his female classmates were wearing short skirts.

“We always turn back to see them,” he said. “I like to see them wearing short skirts, but I wouldn’t want my sister or my girlfriends to do it”.

On March 29, 2010, the Phnom Penh Post reported on a rally of more than 100 people who came out to urge Khmer women to dress more modestly. San Arun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, told the Post that: “Wearing short skirts and sexy clothes causes rape to occur, because all men, when they see white skin, immediately feel like having sex.”

Other voices would strongly disagree. Sim Socheata sent a letter to the Phnom Penh Post’s editor saying: “We are witnessing that women and girls are being blamed for being raped and sexually harassed for the kind of places they decide to go, the kind of dresses they decide to wear and the length of those dresses.

“Instead of calling for women to stop wearing short skirts, the Khmer Teachers Association could have marched against male perpetrators who rape women and girls, men who commit violence in the famil and male teachers who sexually harass their students.”

Still, there are other problems. It may sound funny, but wearing sexy clothing can cause traffic accidents. If they have the power to distract students in class, it is also highly possible that miniskirtwearing women could distract the attention of drivers on the road.

Besides these effects on other people, female students may elicit poor opinions of themselves by wearing lascivious garments.

In Bill Thourlby’s You Are What You Wear The Key to Business Success, the author claims that when you walk into a room, even if no one there knows you, they will make 10 assumptions about you based solely on your appearance.

They may make many others, but you can be assured they will form conclusions about your economic level, your educational background, your trustworthiness, your level of sophistication, your economic heritage, your social heritage, your educational heritage, your success and your moral character.

So, wearing clothing that fits properly with your situation is very important because, as they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

For better or worse, people will determine who you are by the clothing and styles you choose. So if you’re a student, don’t dress like someone working in another career.

Media can be a powerful tool for promoting culture, but it can also be harmful because people, especially teenagers, will follow what they see projected in the media.

In 2000, Prime Minister Hun Sen banned pop stars in Cambodia from sporting short, sexy skirts when they appeared on television.

Quoted by Agence-France Presse (AFP), Hun Sen said: “These singers who like to wear sexy clothes look like they have not enough clothing. Don’t bring them on to TV, let them sing in nightclubs or restaurants. This is not Cambodian tradition, and we have our own rich traditions and culture.”

And even if lascivious performances have stopped on television, sexy photos of some stars still appear in local magazines.

Recently, Cambodians have become more active on the internet, including social networking sites such as Facebook. I’ve seen many teens upload sexy and scandalous pictures onto the internet.

To conclude, all I’d like to say is that only you can choose who you are going to be, and what you want others to think of you.

19/08/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 82 published on August 03, 2011

Educating children via video tutorial


Even though some children do not focus much on studying, they are still able to gain knowledge when watching our programs because we have combined entertainment and education.

Video tutorial

Video tutorial

“Hello, kids! Welcome to the Khmer literature tutorial! In this VCD, you will learn how to write Khmer consonants and vowels while also learning about social morality and the many ways you can practice being a good person.”

The above sentences are voiced by an animated cartoon character in an introduction video meant to demonstrate to children all the benefits they can receive from the VCD, a video tutorial on the Khmer language produced by You Can School. The video, which can be bought in markets across the country, is just one of many locally produced VCDs that have been using video and animation instead of live teachers to instruct children in a variety of subjects.

Started in 2008, You Can School has published 20 volumes of video tutorials in various subjects.

Ourn Sarath, the director of You Can School and a producer of the tutorial videos, says there are a lot of benefits that children and parents can get from these videos.

“Even though some children do not focus much on studying, they are still able to gain knowledge when watching our programs because we have combined entertainment and education in each video,” Ourn Sarath says.

He adds that parents who have more than one child can save money by buying one video for all their children. The children can watch the tutorial together and replay it multiple times until they understand the content.

BS Studio is another video tutorial company that has been in operation since 2008. So far, this company has produced 12 volumes of tutorials, spending around two months to produce a single VCD. Some of these tutorials teach Khmer, some teach English, and all are aimed at children.

“Because of the novelty of this teaching method, we get a lot of support from parents, some of whom even buy the tutorials for relatives living in foreign countries who want to study Khmer,” Chhem Sotvannak, a producer at the BS Studio says. He adds that Adobe After Effect software is used to make all the motion pictures.

Heng Sokha, a teacher at the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL) and the mother of a six-year-old child, says she was unaware that there were instructional videos in the Khmer language, but added that she had bought some of the English-instruction cartoon tutorials for her child, starting at age two.

“I bought some Hollywood cartoons for my child to watch, and I saw an improvement in her listening and speaking abilities compared to other children of the same age,” Heng Sokha says.

“After watching my baby improve a lot, I have decided to continue buying videos for her at increasingly advanced levels.” Nonetheless, these videos cannot replace traditional teaching.

“I don’t think it’s right to keep children at home and simply have them watch videos,” says 25-year-old Men Ponleu, who has been working as a pre-school teacher for more than six years.

She explains that videos should be used only to review lessons children have already learned at school.

“Students can only practice with videos if they have a teacher to bounce questions off,” Men Ponleu says.

“This kind of video works well for children who already have some basic education,” echoes Ourn Sarath. He adds that the aim of creating the videos was to complement, not replace traditional education.

06/07/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 78 published on July 06, 2011

Living in a pagoda, an alternative to stay and study in Phnom Penh_edited version


Student living in pagoda

Student living in pagoda / by: Pha Lina

Measuring just 8 square metres, it’s about half as big as a typical school classroom. One student is doing his homework on a table supporting two desktop computers, adjacent to a broken window. Another student strolls in and begins searching for some lost items in a row of old plastic closets on the opposite side of the room. All in all, the room isn’t much different from the other eight rooms at the monastery, each housing four students in a tiny space. Monastery 10 stands to the west of the main entrance to Mahamuntrei pagoda, surrounded by a number of stupas.

 Oeum Vanna, 25, who hails from Kampong Speu province and hopes to continue his education at university, has been living in the pagoda for more than three years.

As he walks out of his room in his student’s uniform, he explains how he came to stay at the pagoda. “My parents asked this pagoda for permission two years before my high-school graduation,” says the first of four children born to a Kampong Speu farming family.

Ouem Vanna says that living at a pagoda means one has to adhere to its internal rules, including being out no later than 9pm. That deadline is not flexible, as at that time, the monks lock the gates of the pagoda for the security of the students.

Not every student who comes from the provinces gets a chance to stay at a city pagoda. “Only students with good backgrounds who come from impoverished conditions are permitted to stay here,” says Sao Oeun, head of the monastery at Mahamuntrei pagoda. Sao Oeun is responsible for administering the activities in the nine-room building.

He explains that every student seeking to live at the pagoda needs to undergo background checks to make sure he has a good academic history, no criminal record, and has displayed exemplary behaviour, as judged by his village chief or school principal.

Sao Oeun says he doesn’t want troublemakers at the pagoda, because this would disturb the lives of the rest of the students.

In fact, monks from the provinces with hopes of changing their own pagodas in some way have first priority when space is being allocated at the pagoda. All the extra rooms go to students from rural areas. “There are not many rooms for all students who want to be in the Phnom Penh, but at least we can help some of them,” the head of the monastery says.

Mahamuntrei pagoda is not the only place students can seek accommodation when transferring to the city to continue their education. Samrong Andet, in Sangkat Phnom Penh Thmey, just outside Phnom Penh, is another pagoda that accepts rural students seeking to better their circumstances.

Since 1993, when the pagoda began accepting students, thousands have stayed there free of charge. Two hundred are currently staying at the pagoda. Ra Son, one of the four monks responsible for overseeing the pagoda boys, says the pagoda’s grounds contain 100 rooms in which students can stay, with two students occupying each small room and four in each large room.

Even after face-to-face interviews and extensive background checks, not all the miscreants can be weeded out, and some still commit offences while living at the pagoda.

“No one can be perfect all the time,” Ra Son says philosophically.

29/06/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth and Tang Khyhay
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 77 published on June 29, 2011

Living in a pagoda, an alternative to stay and study in Phnom Penh_original version


Dear student blog visitors,

Below is a feature story focusing on the way of life of people living in pagoda. Here is the original version (not edited from any editor) I wrote with another LIFT reporter. The reason I decide to post the original version is that I don’t think the published version (already edited and cut) is fully covered as what we intended to do.

Enjoy reading here,

A Buddhist statue in Samrong Andet pagoda / by: Dara Saoyuth

A Buddhist statue in Samrong Andet pagoda / by: Dara Saoyuth

It is smaller than half of the typical school classroom, about eight square meters. Equipped with two desktop computers on the desk just next to the broken window, one student was doing his homework while another entered the room searching for his clothes in the two old plastic closets opposite the computers. With separated bathroom, it is not different from other eight rooms in the monastery where four students squeeze together for shelter. As quiet as the other monastery, the monastery number ten stands on the west of the main entrance of Mahamuntrei pagoda, surrounded by a number of stupas.

From Kampong Speu province and hope to continue his higher education in university, Oem Vanna, age 25, has been living in the pagoda for more than three years. Walking out of his room in student’s uniform, he stated how he could get to stay in the pagoda.

“My parents asked for the permission in this pagoda two years before my high school graduation,” said Oeum Vanna, the first son born in a farmer family that has four children.

Oeum Vanna said that living in the pagoda has to adhere to the internal rule of the monastery for example he could not be out later than nine o’clock at night since monks will lock the gates for the safety of the others.

However, not every student who comes from the provinces has a chance to settle down at the pagodas in the city. “All students who were permitted to stay here have to be in good background and in poor living condition,” said Sao Oeun, head of the monastery in Mahamuntrei pagoda, where he controls a nine-room building.

He said everyday student who were able to live here has to be verified with no criminal record, good academic performance and behavior from the village chief or school principal, explaining that he did not want the trouble makers to stay in the Buddhist area, and this would also disturb to the live of other students in the monastery.

Since the priority to be in the pagoda was given to monks at the provinces who hopes to change their pagodas for some reasons, the remaining available space keeps for students from the rural areas. “There are not many rooms for all students who want to be in the Phnom Penh, but at least we can help some of them,” said the head of the monastery.

Mahamuntrei pagoda is not the only place where students can ask for accommodation while they transfer their study to the city. In Sangkat Phnom Penh Thmey just outside Phnom Penh, Samrong Andet pagoda is one of the pagodas that can accept much more students than others. Since 1993, students have been accepted to stay in pagoda and so far, there are thousands of them who used to stay there while another more than two hundred students are staying in the pagoda for free of charge.

Ra Son, one among the four monks who are responsible in taking control of pagoda boys, said that the pagoda has around one hundred rooms varying from small to large rooms for students to stay, and the number of students in each room depends on the room’s size which normally two people in a small room and four people in a large room.

By just selecting students based on face-to-face meeting and reading their background from official papers they hand in, not all students being selected are good, and as a result, some of them commit offense upon living in pagoda.

“Some students have committed offenses because people are not perfect all the time,” said Ra Son; adding that if it is just a small offense, he would advise them not to do that again. But if it is rather big, he would ask their parents to come and talk, and if it is a big offense like criminal behavior, he would send them to authority in charged.

In Samrong Andet pagoda, students have to wake up and join a prayer program with monks about half an hour every morning starting from 5:35. “We not only call them to pray, but the other four monks and me take turn to educate all of them each morning, especially on how to behave well in the society,” said Ra Son.

Pagoda Students do not have to pay for monthly rented fees and even can have free meals as well as getting education from monks. Even though pagodas seem to be a good place for poor students who apt for education in the city, they are not meant as permanent accommodations.

Oem Vanna who has been living in Mahamuntrei pagoda for almost four years said that he had planned to leave pagoda and rented a room when his younger brother finished high school and came to Phnom Penh.

“When I first arrived in the city, pagoda was the only place for me because I do not have any money to rent a room, but now I got a job and at least can afford it, so i think that I should give opportunity for some other students from provinces to pursue their education.”

29/06/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth and Tang Khyhay
 

Libraries a brilliant learning resource


Library

Library / by: LIFT magazine

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go,” said Dr. Seuss, an American writer and cartoonist best known for his collection of children’s books.  The poem I Can Read with My Eyes Shut was intended to demonstrate the benefits of reading.

The poem may not resonate that much in Cambodia, where reading rates are low compared to foreign averages – especially those of Americans, who always seem to travel with a book in hand. Laziness and illiteracy are often offered as explanations for the lack of a strong reading culture here.

But from my perspective, as a Cambodian who has lived in this country for almost 20 years, I figure the resources and opportunities afforded the average Cambodian may also have something to do with it.

Libraries are usually considered vast reservoirs of written knowledge, but how many Cambodians can truly access this invaluable resource?

In this article, we’ll discuss reasons preventing and discouraging Cambodian students from accessing libraries.

The first, and most important, reason is that the number of libraries in the Kingdom cannot fulfil the public’s demand.

Those living in remote areas don’t even have libraries in their village schools.

According to the website of Working for Children (WFC), a registered, non-profit charity committed to assisting at-risk children living in rural communities within Siem Reap province, “Most of the rural village schools need libraries. Some schools create makeshift libraries out of an unused classroom, while others keep books in boxes or bags.”

The website also notes that this problem often occurs in recently built schools that need to develop more.

Clearly, schools without a library need one.  Even school with libraries rarely have librarians, often because they  have only a handful of teachers as it is.

A primary school in my home town has been able to build a nice library with government and NGO support, but students hardly have a chance to access it because the door is usually locked.

The school has hired no librarians and the teachers are all busy, so the school director is forced to act as librarian when he gets a free moment, which is not often.

Having a teacher or school director working as librarian creates another barrier to accessing the library.  As they already bear a responsibility to teach or manage the school, they may not want the students to read or borrow books because this creates more work –– sorting, lending and shelving – for them.

Librarians’ knowledge and attitude are also important. They should be friendly and eager to help students find the documents they need.

The opposite was true when I was in high school.  I used to be scolded just for asking whether the library had a particular book.

Libraries should also update their documents regularly.  This is not a huge issue for primary or high-school students, but students in university must be able to access the latest readings for their research.

In some libraries, most of the books are outdated because most are donated by foreign countries and little money is spent on buying new books.  In a bookshop, study materials are always updated because patrons are spending money on them.

Opening hours can also be a limiting factor for student library access.  Though some libraries have begun extending librarians’ working hours to attract more readers, others maintain a schedule that conflicts with the students’ classes.  So, for example, libraries will shut their doors during lunch breaks and at weekends – the times when students are free to use them.

Some students also complain about regulations requiring them to wear uniforms whenever they enter the library.  This poses the question: which is more important, wearing a uniform or gaining knowledge?

Some people go out for the day without planning to go to the library, but if in their free time they suddenly want to go, they will be denied access for lack of a uniform.

Comfort is also essential, and if a library intends to attract patrons, it should, at the very least, have a place where students can sit comfortably, with good lighting and no   distracting noise.

LIFT interviewed Dr Ros Chantrabot, a writer as well as acting vice-president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, about Cambodian literature and literacy.

“I don’t think Cambodian youth do not appreciate reading.  The main point is that Cambodians don’t have enough reading resources.”

I think it will take time to change the reading habits of the average Cambodian.

Based on what Ros Chantrabot said, I’d say the first step is to extend the availability of resources by building more school libraries, and improving the facilities of those already in existence.

22/06/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 76 published on June 22, 2011

Constructive Cambodian: Cambodian local investment


When you enter a store in Cambodia, how do you decide between local and foreign products? Foreigners might choose products from their countries, but, surprisingly, most Cambodians also decide to choose foreign products.

Many reasons contribute to this situation, but the major one is Cambodians’ perception of local products.

Volume two of Cambodian Commodity Chain Analysis Study, a publication by COSECAM and Plan Cambodia, suggests that negative perceptions by consumers that Cambodian products are of poor quality relative to imported products from Thailand and Vietnam is one of the barriers to the industry growth.

According to an article published in January, 2010 on the website of Louie-Thomas, a Vietnamese/European family-run company that focuses on making boutique products, the overall worth of Vietnamese products consumed in Cambodia is US$988 million.

Vietnam’s major exports to Cambodia include instant noodles, plastic products, tobacco, confectionery, seed corn, household products and vegetables.

The 71-page-publication of COSECAM and Plan Cambodia mentioned above also said that while the perception that Cambodian goods are of lesser quality is often accurate, some products are still successfully competing well against imports due to the fact that at the local level, they are better able to meet consumer taste requirements and have a competitive advantage.

If the above statement is true that local products better meet local consumer tastes, you might ask why many people still do not use local products.

But if you pause a bit and think about the prices of the products, you will see that some of the same kinds of products have different prices between the imported and local versions, and usually the imported products have low prices because production costs in Cambodia are a bit higher.

With reportedly 30 percent of the population living on less than two dollars a day, I’m sure that Cambodians will select the cheaper one available.

Another reason causing Cambodian products to not get support from local consumers is weaknesses in marketing.

Since Cambodian advertising and marketing industries have just emerged, the concept of promoting products is not very developed, unlike in other countries. Watching advertising spots of local products and foreign products, and you’ll see the difference. Some local companies don’t even have enough money to produce spots and advertise through media for a long period compared to foreign products. As a result, some local products remain unknown in the heart of Cambodians.

Some negative aspects might arise if Cambodians continue to not support their local products. First of all, the local company might face bankruptcy because of lack of support. Also, we will spend a lot of money on other countries’ products while only a little for local ones. As a consequence, Cambodia will have no local strong brand to compete for the regional, as well as the international, audience and that will affect imports and exports as well.

For example, according to the US Department of State website, in 2009, the amount we received from exporting goods was only $3.9 billion, while the money we spent on imports was $5.4 billion.

One more thing is that the current situation might discourage graduated students from investing in industrial business because they realise that no matter how good the quality of the goods is, it’s still hard to convince Cambodians to use their local products. As a result, a lot of human resources end up working as staffers for foreign-brand companies in Cambodia because they think it’s more stable than opening a business on their own.

Nowadays, young people tend to start running businesses, but mostly businesses related to services, such as opening a hotel, a restaurant or an internet café rather than opening a business to produce local products.

However, there are some positive signs that some institutions are working to promote local products.

In 2009, for example, the PRASAC micro-finance institution sponsored a campaign to buy Cambodian products, and the website khmerproducts.com has been created to promote Khmer products. The Cambodian government has tried to promote Khmer products by establishing the One Village One Product (OVOP) National Committee.

As stated on the committee’s website, OVOP is a concept to make products of high quality.

So, if Cambodians begin using local products, and institutions work together to promote Khmer products – for example, by creating more frequent local product exhibitions – producers will try to improve their quality, the economics will improve and the young generation will have more jobs and more chances to use their skills.

15/06/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 75 published on June 14, 2011

A day in the life of an intern at FAO-UN


Chhay Chenda

Chhay Chenda / photo provided

Most people enjoy having a stable job, but there are some who continually switch positions in order to gain experience and follow their dreams. With eight different job titles in the past few years, Chhay Chenda definitely belongs in the latter category.

When asked, Chhay Chenda volunteered that she searches for jobs that can improve her personal and professional development. In other words, she looks for employers that help her to help them.

“I think I would choose to work in a place based on the learning opportunities it provides, rather than anything having to do with money or status,” Chhay Chenda said.

At the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Chhay works as a national intern, helping the programme officer to implement a food security project.

The 28-year-old usually begins her working day by checking her e-mail, then adding tasks from her to-do list to her personal calendar.

“Projects cannot start if I forget to put tasks in my to-do list,” remarked Chhay Chenda, adding that, by doing so, she can easily prioritise tasks she has to complete immediately, versus those that can wait until later.

She also emphasised that time management skills “help me remember all of my tasks and prevent me accidentally scheduling two meetings at once”.

And her tasks include more than just sitting around the office, checking e-mail, and writing reports. She has also conducted extensive research, met with key project stakeholders, recruited a national project manager and accompanied a mission from FAO HQ to the potential project implementation areas.

“Ensuring the success of our projects requires us to put in a lot of time and effort, including field work, so we can get a sense of the situation despite not being able to talk with all the people,” said Chhay Chenda, noting further that going to the field also enables her to write reports based on her reflections and analysis.

Since graduating in 2005 with a bachelor degree in business administration, accounting and finance, Chhay Chenda has taken the initiative to improve her accounting experience by travelling to work in Laos, studying for her CAT/ACCA accounting exams and even working as an intern at an accounting firm in New York City.

She was selected as a finalist for the Cartier Women Initiative Award in 2008, for a project titled Your Business Solutions.

She has spent six years working as the finance manager for various business and nonprofits, as well holding positions as the deputy director at Ecole Paul Dubrule School, and office manager at Hagar International.

Chhay Chenda maintains that she tries to avoid demanding things of the world, trying instead to give back by joining social activities and helping to improve other people’s lives.

Because she is passionate about learning in social entrepreneurship and international development, she convinced herself to be part of the UN, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Red Cross.

Chhay Chenda

Chhay Chenda when going to the field / photo provided

15/06/2011
By: Dara Saoyuth
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 75 published on June 14, 2011

Young and Married


Everyone seems to agree that Cambodia needs to modernise in one way or another, so why does the institution of marriage often seem to be the exception?

Cambodia is developing, however, early marriage, which means marriage before the age of 18 is still prevalent in the kingdom.

Sambo Manara, a History professor and deputy director of the History department at the Royal University of Phnom Penh says that early marriage is not just something that happens in the present day. He says that  early marriages often happened when there was a need to increase the birth rate, especially during and after war. He gave the example of the post-Khmer Rouge regime period, when a lot of people had lost family members, so they tried to build up their families again by marrying.

Even though there is no more war within the country, 25 percent of women aged 20-24 inCambodiawere married before the age of 18, according to a publication from UNICEF published in 2005. The fear that their husbands might pass away before them is a factor raised by Sambo Manara to answer to the question why there are still couple marriage at young age.

“According to data from World Health Organization in 2009, Cambodian men can live around 58 years, so women think that they have to marriage early; otherwise, their husbands will not have enough time to educate their children, as well as take responsibility in bringing up the family,” said Sambo Manara.

Under the Cambodian Trafficking Law, article 36 says the penalty for anyone convicted of sex with a minor (under 15 years of age) is between five to ten years imprisonment. “From 16 to under 18, they can get married if their parents agree, and if they are over 18, they can marry freely,” says Executive Director of Cambodian Defenders Project Sok Sam Oeun, adding that they can file a complaint to the court if their parents do not allow them to get married once they are over 18.

Even though it is legally possible to get married in your teens, some advocate waiting until you are older.

Khut Khemrin, a doctor and clinical service manager at Marie Stopes International said that most health problems related to early marriage usually concern women. He said “women at the age of 18 years or under18, have organs which are still developing, so it might cause some problems, especially during delivery of a baby if they are pregnant at these ages”.

“One more thing is that Cambodian women, especially those living in countryside don’t have much knowledge regarding reproductive health, so they don’t know how to prevent unwanted baby, and they also don’t know how to take care of their foetus when they pregnant,” said Khut Khemrin.

He suggested that it’s a good idea for young couples to practice birth spacing until they reach the ages of having a safe pregnancy. “They can discuss with each other when they want to get children, so we can introduce them to the variety of ways of contraceptive methods since different methods have different results that can prevent you from having children for 3 years, 5 years or up to 10 years. The choice is yours,” said Khut Khmerin.

Having physical problems is one thing, but another thing is that a couple who marry early can easily break up their relationship or suffer domestic violence.

Chhoun Tray, a vice director at the Department of Psychology at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said that at these ages people cannot control themselves effectively, so they easily get angry. “Sometimes, people are just angry at an everyday word and that can lead to a break up in a relationship,” said Chhoun Tray.

Ek Monosen, a talk show host for Radio FM 102 and vice rector at Human Resources University, said that the best way to prevent break ups of young couples is not to allow them to marry at young ages because then they don’t have much education and are not yet ready to be a father or mother.

However, he suggested that it can be alright for women to marry at these ages and not have problem in relationship if they choose to marry with a man who is older than her because a woman tends to listen and follow what someone older than her says.

But he said the husband should not be older than his wife than nine years because it will be more difficult if the gap is too much. Ek Monosen said that if a woman marries a husband who is more than 20 years older, it’s hard for them to get on with each other because when a wife wants to go to the cinema, a husband wants to go to pagoda.

Another concern a young couple has to think about before getting married is the future of their children. Sambo Manara said that children of young couples are most likely become dysfunctional because their parents don’t have enough capacity to educate them. “If they marry at the age of 15, 16, or 17, they themselves haven’t finished high school, so how can they use their knowledge to teach their children?,” said Sambo Manara.

Ek Monosen said there are four factors that will affect people’s future: family, social situation, education, and personality. He added that a couple will be happy if the above four elements are in harmony.

By: Dara Saoyuth
Additional reporting by: Touch Yin Vannith
This article was published on LIFT, Issue 71 published on May 18, 2011
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