Empowering Cambodian youth to make their voices heard

By Loeurt Lun – Communications Officer for World Vision Cambodia

Youth are one of the largest demographic groups in Cambodia. These young people are the next generation of Cambodian leaders and parents – yet a study conducted by the BBC found that only eight percent of Cambodian youth had experience of voicing their opinion to government officials or non-governmental organisation staff. Only four percent of youth reported they had participated in decision-making in their local community.

In response, World Vision commenced their Communications For Development program in 2013, with the aim of enabling Cambodian youth to increase their confidence and their voice.

The project started by providing a tablet, camera and laptop to each Area Development Program, together with a basic training program for youth group leaders. For many this was the first time interacting with the technology.

The youth leaders then conducted sessions with their youth club members. Using the new equipment, young people started to develop stories addressing their hopes and highlighting the challenges they saw in their community. In a culture where children and youth traditionally have no voice, local leaders began to listen to the passionate voices of youth club members.

Whilst the technology has supported the creation of content, the most significant impact is the growing confidence of the youth, as the work on constructing their message and presenting it in a culturally sensitive manner. Youth who largely had no voice are now becoming key agents of change in many communities.

Cambodian youth participating in training in communications and advocacy to help them speak up about the issues affecting their lives.

With approximately 18,000 members in over 800 child and youth clubs, World Vision Cambodia continues to work to empower children and youth to participate in community decisions that may impact their lives.

Last year 18 young people from across the country assembled for a workshop on social media engagement. The workshop aimed to enhance the capacity of youth in social media and online communication.

“We enabled the youth to make a plan of action on fundraising online and identifying promotions to go public through digital and social media,” says Makara Eam, World Vision’s Integrated Communications Coordinator.

Those who participated have roles as communicators of their local youth groups. They’ve started to introduce their group identity to their community, and conducted online activities and fundraising for various local causes, such as hospitals and community development projects. This important step provided a tangible outcome that built the confidence of youth in engaging their community but also reinforced to the broader community the positive contribution youth can make.

This year through activities such as concerts, donation campaigns, football tournaments, and proposal submissions to private companies, governors, local authorities and micro-finance institutes, the Youth Clubs collectively raised around US$5,000 for Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital and community development.

“When I first started with World Vision, I was afraid of doing presentations. I always hid in the toilet to escape from doing presentations! Through this workshop, I practised doing it in front of the mirror. Finally, I can confidently do it in front of others,” says Pisal, a youth from Kampong Chhnang province.