The first phase of a project aimed at empowering girls and boys aged between 12 and 17 to “learn, share, create and lead efforts to promote social development and gender equality in Cambodia” has been rolled out in Siem Reap, Stung Treng and Ratanakiri provinces.
Initiated by Plan International Cambodia (PIC), Girls Lead is expected to run until 2023.
PIC country director Jan Jaap Kleinrensink said the €2.5 million ($2.9 million) project will build the capacity of 4,000 children to address and solve gender inequality issues at various levels in the Kingdom.
“I am optimistic [the project] will receive more support. Meanwhile, we are working together to solve [gender-related] problems and provide opportunities for the children – especially girls – in order that they can reach their full potential,” Kleinrensink said.
Girls Lead enables girls and boys from 52 children’s clubs in the three provinces to learn through Champions for Cambodia, share their knowledge through Bell Sound, create collective actions through small grants for gender equality and lead through role modelling and advocacy at the commune, provincial and national levels.
Pisey, 14, is one of the children in Ratanakiri province who has actively ‘learned, shared, created, and led’ through the project.
She and her friends – Kong Kea and Roch – not only have cooperated with their male counterparts in their club, they also have exchanged ideas with the adult members of their commune council to determine appropriate solutions to gender-related problems prevalent in their community.
The Kingdom has made progress within the gender equality scope in many sectors. However, collective efforts are still required to solve the remaining problems – especially pertaining to peoples’ mindsets towards gender roles in society.
A 2016 study conducted by PIC saw fewer numbers of girls completing formal education compared to that of the previous year. It also showed growing negative perceptions towards women in leadership positions.
“Child marriage continues to happen, especially in the northeast region of Cambodia. Increasing domestic violence and the inability to raise children among young couples result in weak health or malnutrition of the mother and child,” Kleinrensink added.
Sarith, who represents a children’s club in Siem Reap province, said the project would empower girls to not be fearful in participating in social initiatives to lead their communities and the country.
“[The project] helps girls realise that they are not inferior to boys and they have equal capacity and rights as boys,” said the 17-year-old girl.
Focusing on the advancement of children’s rights and equality for girls, PIC has worked with 58,000 communities worldwide since its inception in 1937.
It has been operating since 2002 in Cambodia. Its sanitation and clean water projects, among others, have directly benefited nearly 80,000 families in 17 provinces.