SHE-CAN Scholar reflects on internship at the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Cambodia - by Vuochnear Ly
After staying in the U.S. for almost a year, it’s very exciting to come back home during the summer break. Coming home this time isn’t just a visit to the family, but it’s also a stepping stone for me to get hands-on experience and discover a pathway for my future career as a diplomat. Thanks to SHE-CAN and my mentors, I’ve earned an interesting internship at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA). They’ve helped me apply for the internship and revise my resume and cover letter while I was still at school in the U.S. On April 27, I got an email from the ministry that said I had been accepted as an intern! It was exciting news, and I was really looking forward to coming back to Cambodia to see my family and friends and for my internship.
I started the internship two weeks after I arrived in Cambodia, which was on June 5 and I will finish my internship on August 15. While working at the ministry, my colleagues often ask what interests me to work here. I tell them I’ve been concerned about gender equality in Cambodia as I learn that this society is conservative and women are subject to inferiority and vulnerability. More importantly, I wish to gain experience working in a government agency, to absorb more knowledge on gender mainstreaming and equality work and to create a powerful network with successful Cambodians.
So far my expectations have been achieved. I was first introduced to the General Directorate of Gender Equality and Economics. I stayed in his department for about a month and a half. The Deputy General Director is very helpful and welcoming. He assigned me to help him and the team revise a newly proposed project called “Leading the Way for Gender Equality.” Meanwhile, this gave me an opportunity to learn how to initiate and create a new project. Working in the General Directorate, I was also involved in community work organized by the Project for Agricultural Development and Economic Empowerment (PADEE), led by MoWA with the cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture. This project aims at empowering economic power for women and their communities through agriculture and handicrafts. The project provides funds and technical assistance to the female farmers and local entrepreneurs. On June 15, I went to Prey Veng province with the PADEE team. Our team went to monitor and evaluate their progress. I was delighted to see their economic situation is improving and advancing, which contributes to empowering young women, reducing domestic violence and allowing them to send their children, especially daughters, to schools. Most of the women in Prey Kneas commune have significantly realized their power and emphasized the importance of education for their children.
After a month staying at the General Directorate of Gender Equality and Economics, I have moved to the cabinet of the minister, where I work as an external communication assistant to the minister. My responsibility is mainly to electronically communicate with development partners and other international corporations regarding crucial meetings and projects with the Minister of Gender Her Excellency Dr. Phavi. I’m also responsible for writing official letters and memos to embassy and international partners. Writing formal letters on behalf of the ministry is a bit of a challenge for me because it requires a specific skill. Even though I had no experience in writing formal letters, I’m delighted to work on it because I've been able to practice this important skill. In the meantime, I’ve had the chance to attend many formal meetings with line ministries, women networks and development partners like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Instead of hanging around after I finish my work, I always go around and ask my colleagues if there’s any other work that I can possibly help with. Interestingly, they usually give me English related work. They said I’m excellent in English because I’m studying in the U.S. Even with their high expectations, I just try my best and I’m happy to help my colleagues in correcting and revising English for their written correspondence.
Overall, working at the ministry for these two and a half months, I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge regarding gender mainstreaming and policies led by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. I acknowledge that gender isn’t a simple issue, but it’s a cross-cutting issue, which has to be institutionalized in essential sectors, such as education, economics and health. Moreover, I gained more understanding on government procedures and roles in empowering women and advocating gender equality in Cambodia. Also, I’ve gained skills in public relations, experience working with a team and I’m able to put my English skills to use. This internship is a stepping stone to my future career.
In one week, I’ll leave for America and I’ll leave the ministry with good memories of my colleagues. They’re understanding and helpful, showing me around and they’re willing to assist and support me no matter what. We work hard and play hard. In just a short time, I’ve created a strong bond with them. We often have lunch together. We share not only food, but also love and wisdom. We all appreciate and respect each other’s effort. More importantly, working with Minister Phavi has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve gained invaluable insights and wisdom from her. She’s not just a leader, but also a mentor to me. I’m fortunate to have worked with her and in the institution. This is what I love the most at the institution and will not be erased from my memory.
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