International Women's Day 2023: Empowering Women in Cambodia through Technology & Innovation

Published: Mar 7, 2023 Reading time: 7 minutes
International Women's Day 2023: Empowering Women in Cambodia through Technology & Innovation
© Foto: UN Women

We believe that empowering women is a critical ingredient in building a sustainable society. 

 As part of this year's International Women’s Day 2023 campaign with the theme of “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, we are sharing some short stories highlighting powerful women and girls working with technology and innovation in Cambodia; one that saves lives, empower other women around them and fulfill childhood dreams.

Innovation that saves lives in the digital age

From a French countryside and has experienced how climate hazards can disrupt daily life, Anouk, project manager for the national early warning system (EWS1294) in Cambodia, shared with us how she became interested in this sector. During her years as an expatriate in India, she witnessed the disastrous effects of the Kerala floods and Cyclone Fani on vulnerable populations. The experience left her with a greater understanding of the importance of local development and disaster risk reduction in fostering socio-ecological resilience.  

The lack of disaster preparedness and adaptive capacity in Cambodia results in large impacts of natural hazards on lives, livelihoods, economic development, and natural resources. The population exposed to extreme river flooding could increase by about 4 million people in the 2040s if no action is taken, and if climate change and the construction of dams on the Mekong and its tributaries affect the watershed system.

EWS1294 is Cambodia’s early warning system that saves lives by providing accurate and timely flood information to vulnerable communities nationwide. First developed by People in Need in 2013, EWS1294 is now recognized as Cambodia’s official multi-hazard early warning system, owned and managed by the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM).

 EWS1294 is now operational in all 25 provinces, with support from international donors.

"In my opinion, there is an urgent need to invest in disaster risk reduction in order to limit the impacts of disaster risks, especially for the most vulnerable people", says Anouk

In the case of an early warning system, women and girls face different types of barriers to accessing and responding to early warning information. Yet, they are often at the most risk of disasters because they stay at home longer and have less access to mobile phones. This exclusion puts the lives and health of women and girls at greater risk. Women are the main actors in disaster risk reduction, but they are hidden. In Cambodia, they are typically responsible for preparing the house before flooding, monitoring water levels, and supervising children playing near rivers. 

EWS1294 helps women to be fully empowered in the role they are already taking on; they can receive alerts through different broadcasting channels to share with their communities and prepare their homes for safety. However, there is still a need to encourage women's inclusion and empowerment and gender-inclusive climate actions, including placing more women in decision-making positions so that they can better consider the challenges other women face in disasters.

"The disaster risk reduction sector needs more women to ensure that not only women's needs, but also those of other vulnerable groups (elderly, disabled, children) are addressed. So, my advice to all women interested in a career in disaster risk reduction is to study the field, participate in online training and webinars, apply for challenging positions, and network in the disaster risk reduction sector", says Anouk. 

Sreydet who recently joined the PIN Cambodia family shared the stories of her career in the disaster risk reduction sector. She is a project officer in the Disaster Management Department at People in Need. With a background in Water Resources Engineering and Rural Infrastructure from the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, Sreydet has become well-versed in the sector through the EWS 1294 project, working with respective authorities from both the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) and the Provincial Committee for Disaster Management (PCDM). 

“I have joined PIN for quite a short period of time, yet it has been an inspiring experience for me to work on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. I have the opportunity to introduce the communities to flood preparedness, response, and mitigation and be involved in helping communities from floods by implementing EWS1294 projects", says Sreydet.

Sreydet has become passionate about her work within the disaster management sector after spending her time during her studied days for an exchange program in Japan and Thailand on the topic: Disaster Risk Management on Resilient Society Development under changing climate. With her extensive experience working with the nationwide EWS1294 platform, she believes it's an excellent technology for women and vulnerable groups to get early warnings about disasters, especially floods, in advance. 

People in disaster-prone areas can subscribe to the platform through different dissemination channels such as the IVR system (1294), EWS1294 public Telegram channel, radio broadcasting, and public loudspeakers.

It is essential to gain an understanding and knowledge about disasters and conduct additional research to become qualified in the sector. Just like Anouk and Sreydet, there are more women globally who work within the sector, working on the ground to ensure the safety of vulnerable communities that are at the most risk from natural disasters. Indeed, women play an important part in this sector, which encourages technology and innovation, helping drive sustainable development for all.

Strengthening the Skills of Cambodian women in Tech

International Women’s Day is a celebration of the achievements of women from all walks of life, all around the world.

This year’s theme set by UN Women, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, focuses on the digital age and how we can utilise technology to support the development of women and gender equality globally.

This year, People in Need reached out to female students who are enrolled at the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) in Cambodia, to hear about their experience in learning information and communications technology (ICT) and automotive.  

Ang Phearak, who lives in Phnom Penh, was previously an employee at a garment manufacturing company in Cambodia. However, during COVID-19, she became unemployed. After losing her job, she wanted to go back to school and study, but due to her financial situation, she could not pursue this dream.

Through online and offline promotion channels, she got to know about the TVET program facilitated by People In Need under the project “Integrated Covid-19 response in poor urban settings in Phnom Penh” funded by the European Union: the dream to learn IT skills became a reality for Phearak.

She is now enrolled as a student of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) center in Phnom Penh. Studying ICT is a new challenge for Phearak, but she is committed to learning. She feels empowered as she is acquiring competencies that she sees as very beneficial and useful especially in the job market nowadays.

“It is important that women have soft and hard skills. That is the only way the economy will improve and ensure a sustainable livelihood”, says Phearak.

Sok Theavy is passionate about cars. Growing up, she had always wanted to learn about cars and how they are repaired in garages. With her passion for cars, she wanted to pursue her studies in automotive repair at the ITI TVET center in Phnom Penh. The practice wasn’t easy at first, but with the support of her instructors and family, she excelled in her automotive class.  

Indeed, studying in this field is not a common choice for a woman: social stigma and prejudice can be overcome thanks to role models like Theavy and her female peers. They decide to be who they want to be, and not be categorized or underestimated in their capacities because they are women. Her peers, both women, and men, look up to her and are eager to learn from her.

Theavy emphasised, “I want to prove that women are capable of anything as long as they work towards their goals. There is no job that women cannot do”. 

Although there exists such social stigma globally of what jobs women and men can do, Theavy encourages women to pursue their dreams, no matter what they are. The automotive sector is one that anyone can grow passionate about. Just like Theavy, she is willing to share her knowledge and skills with young women in Cambodia. 

We celebrate women all over the world for what they do. Technology and innovation are an ecosystem for all; digital technology is opening new doors and providing new opportunities for the global empowerment of women, girls, and other vulnerable groups in society. We need to further encourage and help facilitate gender equality to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequality globally. 
Autor: Sem Senghorng and Koy Chanpor , Communications Department

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