Meet three Cambodian female change-makers
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in Cambodia has launched a Leadership Professional Development Programme with the support of the Capacity Development Partnership Fund
Chan Vannak from Takeo province, Em Vutheany from Sihanoukville province, and Bun Vaddhana from Phnom Penh are three inspiring women who have come together to attend a training programme on leadership and gender equality organized by the MoEYS and supported by the Capacity Development Partnership Fund (CDPF) in collaboration with The Asia Foundation (TAF). Despite coming from different backgrounds, they share a common passion for making a difference in their communities.
“In the Cambodian culture, being a female leader is usually a bit challenging as women also need to think about supporting the family and household [more than men]. But fortunately, in recent years we have seen that more young women and girls are motivated to get an education and grow in their careers,” says Chan Vannak, who is attending the training as a representative of the Takeo Provincial Education Office.
During the training, Chan Vannak, Em Vutheany, Bun Vaddhana, as well as the other participants from Takeo, Sihanoukville, and Phnom Penh quickly discovered that they shared a common goal – to learn how to become better leaders and advocates for gender equality. As the training progressed, they found themselves drawn to each other's stories and experiences, sharing not only their challenges but also their successes in promoting equal opportunities for women.
“I was truly inspired by my colleagues’ passion for education and commitment to making sure that all children, regardless of gender, have access to quality education. This series of training has inspired me to learn more about leadership and gender in our daily work,” says Bun Vaddhana, an educational inspector in Phnom Penh.
The Leadership Professional Development Programme is supported by the Capacity Development Partnership Fund (CDPF), a long-running partnership between MoEYS in Cambodia, the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the United States Agency for Development (USAID), the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF. The modules and training have been developed and rolled out by The Asia Foundation with support from the Kampuchea Action to Promote Education (KAPE). The training is directed towards MoEYS central-level junior, middle, and senior managers, who take five training modules on subjects such as leadership, gender equality, communication, mentoring, and decision-making, amongst other topics. A specific component is dedicated to promoting gender equality and building the capacity of female leaders, particularly at the sub-national level.
“This leadership programme was developed in response to findings of a functional review of MoEYS, identifying a need for further capacity building on leadership. Women are still underrepresented at senior levels in MoEYS, with only 17% of leadership positions being held by women. We hope this training will improve their capacity and overall understanding of gender equality, in order to also provide young girls and boys with role models,” says Hiroyuki Hattori, Chief of Education at UNICEF Cambodia.
“This training programme helps me to better understand how to manage a team and mentees,” says Em Vutheany, Head of the Provincial Office in Sihanoukville who also has rich experience working at a preschool. “We learned about the main characteristics of a successful leader and how to improve teamwork in order to achieve a common goal. I especially like the group activities, where we are divided into small groups with colleagues from other provinces to complete certain exercises and share our knowledge. But I am sure that we need to involve more school principals and teachers in similar trainings so that they can make local changes at their schools.”
The training is being conducted by the Project Partner team KAPE (Kampuchea Action to Promote Education). Mr. Sun Somara is a staff at the Pedagogy Center under the National Institute of Education of Cambodia, and one of the four trainers of the programme.
“We teach our participants about the roles and responsibilities of leaders in the private and public sectors,” shares Mr Sun Somara. “We have also developed a training manual – a small journal in which participants can read some tips, complete assignments, and note down their thoughts and reflections. But the main rule we are trying to follow during our training is to make it easily understandable through interactive games and ice-breaking sessions.”
“We believe that this training will bring changes to the work of our participants, and they will share their knowledge at their workplace as well,” highlights another co-trainer, Ms Neth Angkaroth. “However, I wish there could be more male participants in the training as we know that gender equality and women empowerment cannot be achieved without the participation of men.”
This five-module training is focused on women at the sub-national level, with twenty-five participants. It is part of a larger leadership programme, which currently has more than hundred participants, all undertaking the same leadership training including promoting gender and social inclusion.
Chan Vannak, Em Vutheany, and Bun Vaddhana have only completed two out of the five training modules so far, but they are already emerging as confident, empowered leaders and are returning to their offices with new skills and knowledge, eager to make a difference in their workplace and community. Their meaningful connections with each other have also left a lasting impression, knowing that they have formed a supportive network as they continue their journey toward promoting gender equality and becoming the best leaders they can be.