On the heels of Girls Rising, I left for an opportunity of a lifetime Cambodia.My next 10 days included quite the travel and time change, but was also filled with meetings, events, speaking engagements (I joke that my speaking career launched in Cambodia), and adventures to learn about the culture, economy, business, and people.
Before I go into reliving my trip – how did this opportunity even happen? It all began in the fall when we worked with ACYPL to host a young professional from Cambodia who was working to support women’s empowerment back in Phnom Penh. You can read more about Melody and her time at CWCC here. As her Supervisor, I was able to apply for a professional development trip in Cambodia with Melody and was accepted!
My time in Cambodia was amazing and a unique way to explore another country and culture. Not only did I have a local guide, but I was able to meet with people from various organizations to dive deeper into the world of business in Cambodia and how young professionals, college aged women (and men) are seeking to make change. Understanding their culture is another part of this trip, so I was able to visit places like The Royal Palace, The Cambodian Cultural Center, Pub Street, and various temples including Angkor Wat.
A few – of the many – highlights of the trip:
Girls Rising – Cambodia edition at the U.S. Embassy. Not only was I able to visit a U.S. Embassy for the first time, but I got to speak to a
group of 60 women who were young professionals and/or in college about how we lift one another up and how we need to work together to overcome the hurtles women face.
Setting Goals. At an event in Siem Reap, I worked with college students on setting professional goals. It was great to see the level of participation and hear what their goals were. A lot of them want to be entrepreneurs one day!
Meetings. Who would ever guess meetings would be highlights?! They are when you are able to talk about the issues businesses and workplaces face – a lot which are similar to what we face here (communication, lack of women in leadership, expanding a business, etc.)
Leadership. It was great to see the leader in Melody and how she is inspiring others to lead. I was fortunate enough to see other amazing leadership through the trip at the vocational school, the U.S. Embassy, and in some of our meetings.
Angkor Wat. What an amazing place and structure. The stonework is mind blowing.
Fish Amok. My favorite dish I ate – a coconut curry with steamed fish, cooked in banana leaves.
Dinner with Melody’s family. I met three generations of women in her family, along with other family members for a nice, at home meal.
Within these amazing highlights, here is what I gained culturally, professionally and personally:
Starting a business is hard, especially those focused on local products, yet there are change-makers wanting to make a difference, including Melody. Cambodia imports most of their products and materials have to be shipped in. It’s not as easy as ordering a case of this or that off Amazon. Local products are more expensive, despite the better quality. Locals are used to products from outside the country, and so the buy in from them is harder for the entrepreneur.
Women in male dominated fields, like engineering and trade skills, face the same problems here: lack of female representation and not being respected or taken seriously by their male counterparts. Women entrepreneurs face similar issues there, with not as many of opportunities for funding.
Confidence. no matter where we are from, or what our age is, we all have issues with confidence.
So how can we empower each other, lift each other up, and build a pipeline of more female leaders, no matter where we live? By supporting each other through mentorship, general support, providing a listening ear, and celebrating our wins. Also, visit another country and set up opportunities to meet with local people and organizations to learn more about their life and culture.
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