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Executive director of CCHR Chak Sopheap, who used to be a clogher herself
Executive director of CCHR Chak Sopheap, who used to be a clogher herself. Charlotte Pert

Rural women encouraged to boost online presence

Young women in Cambodia will begin a quest this month to get their voices heard thanks to a new scheme led by human rights campaigners.

The Empowering Cloghers Project, which the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) will launch later this month, will deliver training sessions for 20 young women between the ages of 18 and 25. The aim, said Chak Sopheap, CCHR’s executive director, is to expose women to the same digital tools that are currently used more often by men.

“We want to empower young females to use the tool of new media as a way to express themselves – it fits in with CCHR in the way that we want to promote fundamental human rights”, she said.

Participants in the program will receive training in areas such as how to create a blog and how to engage with and maintain a digital audience. Sopheap added that she will lead some of the training sessions herself. “I am a clogher myself, so I could share to the trainees what inspired people like me to write a blog and how to share your story,” she said.

The term clogher is a portmanteau of clogger – the popular slang term for Cambodian blogger – and blogher, another slang word for a female blogger. The project has been mostly funded by the Rising Voices Microgrant 2014, a project of Global Voices Online. This is a global media platform that aims to give a voice to marginalised communities often overlooked by mainstream media.

Though internet penetration nationwide is 20 per cent, said Sopheap, there is a massive digital divide in terms of gender.

“Mostly it’s male oriented, and it’s the same all the way across ICT work. The idea is to bridge the gender digital divide and to give the women a space where they can voice their concerns,” she said, adding that they don’t necessarily have to blog about human rights issues, although they are encouraged to do so.

The project specifically targets women from rural areas who have come to Phnom Penh to study or work, with the hope that they can blog about their experiences growing up in the provinces. Sopheap also hopes that they might be able to influence other women in rural areas to follow suit.

“The youth in urban areas have more chances, more opportunities. But we want to equip the rural community with this same opportunity. With this kind of empowerment, cloghers can bring the ideas back to the rural community”, she said. “Mostly, internet penetration is concentrated in urban areas. Internet cost and infrastructure are challenges for
the rural community”,
she added.

Uoeung Bonsovathary, 24, is an office assistant at Pannasastra University, but was recognised by CCHR as an influential blogger due to her blog Cambodian Daughter, about life growing up in Phnom Penh. She said she thinks it’s important to support young women from rural areas and to encourage them to express themselves. “I think that is a wonderful idea. I appreciate the effort to tie women together using an easy way such as the internet,”
she said.

“If women are given more public platforms and are able to express their opinions, there will be a big difference. It is a good way to balance the quality of media and also to increase our freedom of expression if we have the same number of females in this sector”, she added.

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