Hi, my name is Mony and I am the Project Manager of NOW-Us! Award Cambodia. It has been more than a year since we talked about our winners of NOW-Us! Award Cambodia 2021, as a refresher, here’s a recap after an intensive Bootcamp and mentoring sessions within 2 months from August to October 2021, NOW-Us! Award Ceremony was implemented and 3 out of the 9 teams were awarded a grant of 25k euros, 15k euros and 10k euros to run their project.
NOW-Us! Award Ceremony Night 2021.
The 3 awarded teams are;
- Neary is an online platform that works to combat all the negative social norms and stereotypes for gender equality. Winning 1st place with their #IYOUAREBEAUTIFUL Campaign.
2. SAORI Organization is a non-profit organization that works for a society where people with disabilities have the opportunity to study skills, obtain decent employment, earn a living, and live a dignified life. Winning 2nd place with their capacity building and women with disabilities empowerment project.
3. SafespaceBTB is a community project working toward creating a safe and creative space for LGBT youth in Battambang province. Winning 3rd place with their capacity building and space building project.
Throughout their project implementation, we met, exchanged work and supported each other through various projects while a few worth mentioning would be their documentaries of them and a Music Video to promote the rightsholder groups.
While each one of them has a very different target audience and approach toward creating a positive social impact in Cambodia, the one thing they all have in common is how they promote inclusion and innovation through their activities. I’ve been catching up with the 3 teams and here’s a recap of what happened;
Neary team started big and bold with an introduction video to their #IYOUAREBEAUTIFUL campaign full of inspiration, power and creativity. Throughout the campaign, various content was published on their Facebook page from posters, videos to many series of podcasts and recently a music video too.
During one of my conversations with Linda, the co-founder of Neary, she shared that “Since starting this project, I really enjoy the creative process of curating all the content with my team. While also seeing the impact we are generating in our community.”
From an outside perspective, I really can see how much this campaign has supported women, men, the LGBT community and more on their mindset of what beauty is. As I myself have shared with many of my friends and family, it serves as a resource for them to understand how toxic the current beauty standard is. It is also a way for them to understand their words can be hurtful to me when talking about my body.
When speaking about resources Linda also shared that the “Neary project is a resource and a catalyst for everyone, we have influencers who collaborated with us and afterward, the message they spread on their platform becomes more and more inclusive and supportive toward people regarding their beauty.” “We also received many comments and many people reach out to us via the Facebook page to share that our content has helped them through dark times”
Neary Campaign “Beauty Standard” on Facebook
Bong Amraroth is the founder of the SAORI organization based in Kampong Chhnang province. Her and SAORI organization’s biggest task was to collaborate with governmental institutions and the private sector to create more accessibility and opportunity for people with disabilities in Kampong Chhnang province.
I managed to hop on a call with bong Amraroth last week to talk about her next plan and do some reflections with her. She shared with me that one of her biggest highlights from last year was receiving an acknowledgment letter for SAORI’s work from the city hall of Kampong Chhnang province. She also shared that “To be honest Mony, I never expect us to go this big. I work in many different jobs to fund this organization because I want to help other people with disabilities like me and I never expect to get any acknowledgment or anything. Because of this fund from Voice we managed to do so many things and receiving that letter means so much as it shows support from the local authorities but also validates SAORI’s hard work these years.”
Bong Amraroth, representing SAORI Organization is also currently a part of the women and child council and council of people with disabilities at the city hall of Kampong Chhang province. Bong Amraroth is advocating for changes within the system and I was able to witness this during one of my trips to Kampong Chhnang last year when SAORI Organization was hosting a dialogue meeting with the provincial governor of Kampong Chhnang and other departments of the government such as the department of education and the department of women’s affairs.
Beyond SAORI Organization’s amazing work at the government level, they also advocate with the private sector. Bong Amraroth shared that “My staff cannot go to the bank to withdraw money, why? Because the bank does not have a way for people who use wheelchairs to go up to their ATM or inside the bank! I contacted the branch manager of the bank, we had coffee and after a few follow-ups, they agreed to build a slope for people who use wheelchairs.”
I see determination, power and future in bong Amraroth’s eyes, is it very comforting to know there are people like bong Amraroth pushing for inclusion to be fitted in the agenda for the future. I believe bong Amraroth and SAORI Organization will soon one day go to the national level and even international because her willpower and commitment are as strong and sharp as obedient.
SAORI’s activities with youth and civil society organizations.
This story hits close to home as I can relate a lot. Being LGBT in the province is not easy since there are not a lot of resources and open-minded people for you to feel safe there. All you wish is for you to leave and go somewhere better. But SafeSpaceBTB is battling that right now by creating a safe and resourceful space in Battambang for LGBT people there.
I saw bong Thida, the co-founder of SafeSpaceBTB, who went to Vietnam last year for the ILGA Asia Conference of 2022. I was very happy to see that we are being present for international events gathering collaborators and expanding our network. For me, that was an amazing achievement. Although during my call with Bong Thida she shared that for her, SafeSpaceBTB’s biggest achievement was the behavior changes of people in Battambang. She shared that “Right now a lot of NGOs are asking us to share about SOGIEs to their staff, to create awareness and safe space within a workplace.” Beyond institutions what further impressed me is the changes in individuals as bong Thida shared “We have LGBT individuals who are now more open about themselves, who joined our events and gatherings. We also have non-LGBT individuals who are now more open-minded in Battambang.”
Hearing all of that really healed my inner child. I felt so neglected during my time in the province, but knowing bong Thida and SafeSpaceBTB team are working so hard every day for the future of LGBT individuals there, I feel relief.
Another thing I want to highlight personally is the growth and behavior changes of bong Thida herself after implementing this project. Because bong Thida has really put herself out there and showed that LGBT individuals can be whoever they want to be and our sexuality does not define us! Beyond that, bong Thida is setting an amazing example for LGBT individuals. Bong Thida shared that “This project allows me to truly feel myself, as I have come out and empowered myself. I am building relationships with my family, friends and colleagues as they are starting to accept me for who I am. I joined a TV show to share about being a lesbian in the province, something I never imagined I would do”
The work of bong Thida and SafeSpaceBTB does not end here, as they are planning bigger things for the future. A few things that I can give a snapshot of is a comic book, which I am personally super excited about! Seeing representations in media and arts will be so impactful for future generations to be open-minded toward everyone.
SafeSpaceBTB’s events promote and collect LGBTIQ+ voices.
So much impact was generated just in 1 year by these amazing changemakers. I am so grateful to be able to witness this and also happy I could be a part of their journey.
I hope this inspires you to start your journey.
Interested in collaborating with us?
Exchange kind words here: [email protected]