The first ever women web portal in Cambodia was one of the women programs initiated by the Open Institute in 2006 which aimed to promote gender equality in a society where women can exercise their rights and be empowered to participate in the economic and sociopolitical spheres. This women web portal attempts to bring women issues and their rights empowerment in the global discussion through the use of three Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools: Blog, Online Forum, Gender Mailing List.
Though the internet penetration in Cambodia is still low of which overall usage figure in 2009 survey is 9.8 percent and up to 18.8 percent in the capital, the portal is trying to make information available in Khmer language and creating platforms where women from various backgrounds ranging from commune council members, government officials, organization's representatives, teachers, students, and the youths in general can get their voices heard.
Sokhayouk Prak, Women Program's Coordinator and also active blogger whose blog aims to raise awareness on women rights gives a comprehensive introduction about the women web portal:
វិបផតថលស្ដីអំពីស្ត្រី គឺជាបណ្ដុំព័ត៌មានអេឡិចត្រូនិក ជាភាសាខ្មែរដ៏សម្បូរបែប ទាក់ទងនឹងឯកសារច្បាប់ សិទ្ធិ យេនឌ័រ បច្ចេកវិទ្យា គមនាគមន៍ ព័ត៌មានវិទ្យា សកម្មភាព និងភាពជោគជ័យនានារបស់បណ្ដាញ/អង្គការស្ត្រី និង ឯកសារជាច្រើនទៀតទាក់ទងនឹងសេដ្ឋកិច្ច និងការអភិវឌ្ឍន៍។
វិបផតថលស្ដីអំពីស្ត្រី គឺជាវិបផតថលជាភាសាខ្មែរស្ដីអំពីស្ត្រីមុនគេបង្អស់ដែលត្រូវ បានបង្កើតឡើង និងបង្ហោះជាផ្លូវការនៅខែតុលា ឆ្នាំ ២០០៧ ក្នុងគោលបំណង ផ្សព្វផ្សាយព័ត៌មានទាក់ទងស្ត្រីនិងសិទ្ធិ និងសម្របសម្រួលការប្រាស្រ័យទាក់ទងនានា។
Women Web Portal is the first women portal made available in Khmer language with various documents related to applicable laws, rights, gender issues, ICT, social and economic development. This portal officially launched in October 2007 aims to provide spaces of women related issues and platform of discussion for the common goal of gender equality in Cambodia.
From its 2009 report, there are graphs showing the majority of shared content portion and the dramatic increase of visitors which indicate the great participation of their targets.
Via e-mail interview with Manavy Chim, Open Institute's Executive Director who previously spent more than 20 years working with the Ministry of Foreign Affair and International Cooperation and later joined the civil society with the hope for a greater liberty to work with local people to solve various social problems, emphasizes the great benefit of ICT in women empowerment.
Question: Why did you personally become involved in this women project?
Manavy: I want to explore more about women problem and to see what I can do to be of help. Information on legal document and document related to women rights in Khmer that can help women with problem or without problem is not easy to find. Women are facing many problems including violence against women (rape, domestic violence, human trafficking) poverty, and discrimination.
But women dare not to speak out. It is good that we provide women information they need, spaces and opportunities for women to break silence and speak out , to share with us what do they think about themselves and their future, and what is their concern. Hope this contribute to women life’ satisfactory.
Q. What have been the results?
Manavy: The Women web portal, the first and a single web portal in Khmer language in Cambodia that provides people a larger amount of information on gender, women rights and development issues. The portal was ranked by the Google Page Rank 5/10 among other web sites around the world, as a web site with meaningful, useful information and attractive to visitors. The women web portal gets more than 2000 unique visitors per day and there are more than 10000 pageviews since it was launched on late 2007.
This is not only a channel for information sharing but also provides an open space for discussion to address their concern, and also as space for women organizations to share about their organizations. There are communication tool made available through the women web portal such as blog and online forum. Take Back The Tech (TBTT) is one among an attractive way of information sharing on violence against women among young people by using and controlling technology.
The women program does not work alone, but we cooperate with the Association of Progressive Communication (APC), an international organization pioneering the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for social justice that has more than 100 member organizations around the world. We work together on the MDG3 ( Millennium Development Goals) project on strengthening the strategic use of ICT by women to stop Violence Against Women (VAW) in which involve women from 12 countries in the regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Meanwhile, very good collaboration has been made through a Memorandum Of Understanding between the Open Institute and the Ministry of Women Affairs signed on July 2009. The Ministry and the Open Institute started coordinating government and civil society on the response to Violence Against Women, by creating public forum to discuss and coordinate the implementation of the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence on Women, which will meet several times to attempt to create a joint strategy. These actions will be supported by all the means of dissemination of the Ministry and the Open Institute, which include websites, publications, radio programs, a Guidebook for Women, and public meetings.
Q. What are the biggest obstacles to your success?
Manavy: ICT is new thing to many Cambodian people, particularly women. To promote the use of ICT by women is not yet in the agenda of the government, in most of the NGOs and of the private sectors. While world wide, women organizations and network are using online resources, web sites, to share experiences, to mobilize support for specific actions and develop global action strategies, not many Cambodian women are aware of the use of ICT. At the same time, ICT use in general, much less awareness of how ICT can be strategically used to combat VAW, is very limited in Cambodia.
Q. How do you plan on overcoming these obstacles?
Manavy: We came up with a strategic planning that involves NGOs, government institution and private sector in a systematical way. This will be collaboration and a collective solution that involve experts from our partners (the APC and MDG3 project) from other countries. This is a series of actions including capacity building to women organizations and relevant institutions both government and NGOs on ICT global knowledge and skills. The movement will be linked to the consultation meetings to discuss the interaction between VAW&ICT, the participation and how ICT can be used in the implementation of the National Action Plan to Prevent VAW.
This will help women organizations and the government to identify the issues and the need of using ICT for a better status of women. Recommendation for the regulation/policy supportive for the use of ICT for women empowerment and to enhance women rights will be made during the meetings.
Skill on e-advocacy also will be provided to our target group through the trainings. The training will guide participants on how to use our women web portal and how to get benefit from advance technology. Small grant will be made available to support the project on the use of ICT to combat VAW.
Q. What is your message to the public?
Manavy: It is imperative that women are able to draw on available resources to combat VAW. Access to ICT can be seen as central issue concerning empowerment of women. Women should be empowered by enhancing their skills, knowledge and access to information technology. Without knowledge provided to women, any attempt to promote the use of ICT by women in Cambodia would be incomplete. Key players in the society including the government, the private sector and NGOs should pay more attention on promoting and encouraging women to use and control ICT.
This should be started from education sector which provide ICT’s knowledge and skills, encourage female student take part in computer science study, ensure for ICT market and employment and the involvement of women at decision making level in such employment. The lower price of internet access is also one among other factors to encourage people to use it.
Women should always make themselves fresh in relation to capacity building, well equipped to adopt with the rapid change of globalization and the ICT revolution, if not women will be kept behind such change.