“From what I have observed, women do the majority of housework in my community,” notes Mr. Ley Men, a graduate from the Sen Sok Sub Secondary school in Siem Reap. “As a young man, I want to take action to break down the traditional gender stereotypes in rural areas.”
According to him, women and girls face barriers in accessing education, social activities and the labor market due to stereotypes, discrimination and young marriage. Witnessing such problems first-hand motivated him to take action to address the issue.
As one of the project team leaders, Mr. Ley applied to the Community Action Challenge (CAC), an initiative launched by the Cambodia Volunteering Network (VolCam) aiming to encourage young people in Cambodia to identify a problem in their community, design a solution and take action to solve the issue. In 2017, VolCam provided financial support and capacity-building training to seven selected youth teams – including one led by Mr. Ley – so that they could sustainably run their projects.
He conducted a gender workshop at the Sen Sok s from which he himself graduated. The workshop aimed to give participants a better understanding about gender through interactive games, group work and visual materials. One measure of the team’s success was the number of attendees: 220 primary school students participated in their workshop, far exceeding the team’s initial goal of 70. By cooperating with one another, the 16 volunteers were able to manage the unexpectedly large audience, maintaining flexibility and keeping the workshop interactive. Another indication of their success was the workshop’s impact on people in the community. At the start of the workshop, the participants took a pre-test and scored an average of 48 per cent. After the workshop, however, their scores rose to 75 per cent. Through a later follow-up, the team also discovered that 34 students had shared their newly gained knowledge with their parents, relatives and other students who did not attend. In addition, the school director was so inspired by the team’s project that he contacted the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to discuss how to take further action as a school. Even after the support from VolCam ends, he plans to continue raising awareness among young students as well as their parents and local authorities.
Most importantly, the project led by Mr. Ley is a great example of how not only women but also men should start taking action to make gender equality happen. It serves as an important first step to encourage everyone, including men, to play a key role in promoting gender equality in their community.