Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Two teens to address the UN about disaster-risk solutions

Two teens to address the UN about disaster-risk solutions

Two teens to address the UN about disaster-risk solutions

17 Hengmeang and Sophoeurn

From droughts and floods to road crashes and lightning strikes, when disaster happens in Cambodia, it is women and children who bear the brunt.

Two teenagers have this week travelled to Switzerland to address the United Nations, and present their ideas about to reduce disaster risk.

The pair were selected to attend the Geneva conference, hosted by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, by Plan International Cambodia, a youth empowerment NGO.

“Only children can tell adults about their [own] suffering,” said one of the two, named Hengmeang, 17, in a statement. “Many children are very vulnerable.”

He, along with Sophoeurn, 18, and six other young delegates invited to attend, will address the conference at the Resilient Future We Want event, which is being organised by Plan International as well as other international NGOs
Save the Children, World Vision and UNICEF.

The NGO has withheld their full names in line with their child protection policy.

Mom Chantara Soleil, Communications Manager of Plan, said children are particularly important in the disaster-risk reduction discussion due to their increased likelihood of falling victim to disaster.

“Based on our experience, children and women are the most vulnerable groups during disasters,” said Soleil, who added that droughts and floods were the two most common disasters facing Cambodian communities, followed by vehicle accidents and lightning strikes.

“So we started our risk reduction work by building the capacity of the children and women to assess the risks and mitigate the risks.”

Soleil said that both youths came to the attention of the NGO through their active roles in the organisation’s youth programs.

 “We identify those who are the best and know the issues very well.”

Sophoeurn had attracted their attention by her work in his home village in Siem Reap province, where she introduced a charity collection box to raise money for road accident victims.

“It was a very new idea to the area, but now the charity box has become a budget for students who cannot afford uniforms and school materials,” Soleil said.

“The participation of children and young people in disaster-risk reduction is very important as children can be leaders or decision-makers to contribute to development in their own communities now and in the future,” Sophoeurn said.

Hengmeang, meanwhile, is a leader of the Child Advocacy network and a member of the Young Council Cambodia in Kampong Cham.

According to Soleil, involving youth voices in community planning is valuable for everyone.

“They are more creative than adults. Adults think more about money and incentive, but children want to learn experience.”

Soleil said this has created a situation where knowledge comes from children.

“Right now the children got educated, they educate other children, and the children educate the adults.”

In a culture where children are expected to not question their parents wisdom, Soleil said this is a major step.

“Before, in the context of Cambodian society, parents did not value children’s participation in activities. But adults are starting to accept this.”

Sophoeurn’s mother, Noy Tum, said in a statement that her daughter’s participation in discussing disaster-risk reduction at the Geneva conference made her proud.

“I am a farmer from a remote area. Sophoeurn is my daughter and she is just a girl, but she can share her knowledge with other children around the world. I am a mother, who had less opportunity for a good education.”

The  teenagers arrived at the conference on May 19 and will stay until May 22.


  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman

  • Cambodian women diving deep, going far

    There is a saying in Khmer that “women cannot dive deep or go far”. The meaning is that women should not stray too far from their traditional gender roles. But when Menno de Block, an entrepreneur from the Netherlands, took a good look around his