Welcome Remarks: By Ms. Pauline Tamesis at the (recorded) TV Youth Debate on Gender Equality
Excellency Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs,
Excellencies, Students, Professors,
Dear friends and audience of this youth debate,
I am honored to be part of the celebrations to commemorate International Women’s Day in Cambodia. For almost three centuries, women across the world have been fighting for their rights -- their rights to vote, to work, to earn equal pay for equal work, to live free of violence and discrimination, and to have citizenship and equal rights to men. This International Women’s Day is a reminder of all that we have fought for and achieved, but also of how far we still need to go.
The global celebration of the International Women’s Day is just one of the occasions to promote gender equality and to end discrimination and violence against women and girls in all its forms.
I am very excited to see so many young people engaged in this debate today. Debates are tools for positive change. They allow us to challenge norms and help us to develop our minds. Through debate, we learn how to think critically, cultivate our leaderships skills, communicate clearly and build confidence.
I believe (and always say) that you, the young people of Cambodia, are not just the future, but the present. You are the driving force of Cambodia. More than 60 % of the population of this country is below the age of 25. That is why you are the ones that can (and must) end gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls.
Cambodia has seen dramatic changes in social norms in the past few decades. Poverty has been reduced, urbanization is happening at an incredible speed. Young people are more informed than ever before, while citizens, especially in urban areas, have better access to new technologies and media. It is encouraging to see increasing efforts in promoting young women in science and technology. Recently, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Development Innovations and IT Academy STEP Cambodia launched the first Cambodian female coding club - “Sisters of Code” - to encourage female students to try programming and develop their confidence, as well as equip them for a successful digital future.
And young people, in many ways, are already leading the charge for change.
Take Thida Kuy, a 28-year-old LGBTQ activist, who helped launched a social media platform (#LOVEISDIVERSITY) so members of the LGBTQ community had space where they could share stories and advocate for a more inclusive society. Their campaign has reached tens-of-thousands. There’s also Sokanha Ly and Bunhourng Tan. These 21-year-old engineering students are the co-founders of Eco-Plastic. They are using their grit and ingenuity to tackle plastic waste pollution. Their idea to turn plastic waste into cheaper and better roadways would not only help Cambodia, but if it works, it could quite literally change the world.
Despite positive changes, there is a lot more work to be done. For instance, we still have a lot of work to do to change outdated norms and misconceptions. Did you know, that a large proportion of Cambodian men and women believe that a woman’s most important role is to take care of the home? WE MUST CHANGE THIS! Many studies show that if women are active participants in society, the quality and pace of economic growth is more robust. We need more and more young women and men, like you, who are ready to challenge these sexist norms and behaviors!
The three themes of today’s youth debate are very relevant. Through economic empowerment, social innovation and entrepreneurship, women and girls can, and will, take the country forward in this era of high-tech and digital revolution.
As eloquently explained by the Country Director of Oxfam, social protection systems are key to ensure that women and girls are not left behind and that everyone can benefit from Cambodia’s strong economic growth. Mrs Solinn Lin highlighted that investments of $1 in social protection yields $2.5 in returns to the economy. This is a tremendous contribution, and hence social protection is the bedrock to an equitable society. Through social protection, we can guarantee, that at a minimum, over the life cycle, from birth to death, all in need have access to essential health care and to basic income security. This is to ensure that no one falls back to poverty as an economy grows.
At the same time, The role of media is critical to promote gender equitable behaviors and prevent violence against women and girls. We all have a role to play!
So while discussing this topic, I want to emphasize that blaming of victims, in any context, must come to an end. I would like to thank the efforts by the Government, the Club of Journalists and NGOs for their work to end victim blaming in the media. Sadly, there’s still much work that needs to be achieved. I hope there will soon come a day when jokes, cartoons, pictures, videos and news articles stigmatizing and blaming women will be just a thing of the past.
Thank you to the Women’s Affairs Ministry for organizing this debate and to all university students and professors who are taking part in it.
You, and the young citizens who are watching this debate at home, are Cambodia’s present and we count on you to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable future and delivering gender equality. The future is now and the present is yours!
Good luck to you all! Thank you very much!