The celebration of AFD's 80th anniversary in Cambodia was an opportunity to examine how women’s rights and gender relations have evolved. It was also the chance to inaugurate the "Women's Voices" exhibition featuring the testimonies of 13 inspiring Cambodian women involved in projects supported by AFD Group.

AFD has been supporting developing countries for eight decades and will soon celebrate three decades of working in Cambodia. In Paris and throughout the world, this anniversary was an opportunity to look to the future and ask ourselves what kind of world we want to build by 2101. In Cambodia, the issue was approached from a gender perspective, looking at ways to improve women's rights and involvement in society in order to build a more equal and just world.

The portraits of women in the "Women's Voices" exhibition, taken by Cambodian photographer Sereyrath Mech, capture their determination to break down the barriers that hinder their emancipation. Their testimonies show how they are pushing the envelope on a daily basis to make sure that Cambodia's future is also driven by women.

Read the exhibition booklet

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"I Encourage the Younger Generation of Women to Believe in Themselves”
Sopheap Tung, Deputy Director General of the Department of Technical and Vocational Education and Training of the MLVT (Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training), is a pioneer in empowering women in Cambodia.

For her, gender equality begins when young women are empowered to believe in themselves, prioritize their own ambitions, and take every opportunity to improve their skills. Above all, she believes that it is up to women to create their future and that "our greatest enemy as women is our own fear".

"I encourage the younger generation of women to believe in themselves. They must have the will to act," she explained with a sense of wisdom and generosity characteristic of those who have had to personally invest in the struggle for gender equality. "If they are afraid, they will pass up all opportunities. If you don't have confidence in yourself, how can you accomplish things? Find a way to push forward!"

Sopheap Tung dedicates her days to paving the way for empowering thousands of marginalized women. In her role in the department, she oversees the design and implementation of large-scale vocational training, promotes innovative training programs, manages facilities, dormitory systems, school renovations, equipment purchases, and curriculum development. She advocates for feminism and creates opportunities that empower women and therefore reduce poverty.
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"I Want to see More Women Trained, Empowered, and Recognized in the Workplace and in Society"
Sreynov Hoy is not only a renowned aquaculture expert. She is also a feminist and a strong advocate for women in her field. As part of her job, she supports local and international aquaculture trainers, but beyond this work, one cause is particularly close to her heart: advocating for gender equality and women's professional development.

"I want to see more women trained, empowered, and more recognized in the workplace and in society," she said. “We must fight against gender stereotypes that dictate which jobs can be done by women and which by men.”

Sreynov Hoy's approach to her work is not only technical. It is not only about raising awareness of sustainable aquaculture practices. It is also about making women's voices heard in a male-dominated industry, challenging and transforming outdated norms and work culture. She supports marginalized women who want to work in this field, helping them to develop their identity and build their self-esteem. "I want women to stand up for themselves, so that in the future they can be independent and not depend solely on their husbands or their families".

AFD Group, alongside the European Union, is supporting the aquaculture sector and women's role in this sector through a €25 million project. More broadly, AFD is mobilizing more than €110 million for projects in the agricultural sector in Cambodia, with the ongoing desire to support a greater role for women at all levels: cooperatives, watershed associations, provincial governance, etc.

"Don't let fear get in the way. Don't worry about norms. Women can make their own path. They can contribute to the discussions and bring their ideas to build a better, more egalitarian world.”
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"I learned that Men Should Respect Women”
Not so long ago, there were no women like Lyna Nam, 19, an industrial engineering trainee, at the Cambodian Garment Training Institute (CGTI). Factory work, particularly in the textile industry, is an area where gender inequality is deeply rooted.

"Most of the time, garment companies do not promote women. For example, there are very few women in management positions," said Nam. "Most companies prefer to give the high-paying jobs to men. They think that women don't have the ability to take on this kind of responsibility. It's not fair or equitable."

CGTI's mission is to make a difference in the world of textiles and fashion by helping young women acquire the skills and knowledge to move up the ladder. Lyna is learning about management, but also addresses gender inequality in the field in her classes.

"I learned that men should respect women. Men should not think they are stronger than us or have better abilities than women. I learned that women do not have to accept sexual or verbal harassment at work. But what about the women who haven't learned this and can't cope?”

At work, Lyna has gained confidence in herself and intends to be in a management position in her field. But she knows that this will not be without obstacles, she will have to confront systemic gender inequalities at all levels, probably throughout her professional life.
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An interactive, engaging exhibition

The inauguration took place in the gardens of the French residence with the French Ambassador to Cambodia, Jacques Pellet, the AFD Director in Cambodia, Ophélie Bourhis, and several Cambodian partners in attendance who praised the quality of Cambodia's cooperation with AFD over the past three decades. In attendance were Hem Vanndy, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Economy and Finance, on behalf of Aun Pornmoniroth, Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, Keo Rattanak, Minister Attaché to the Prime Minister and Director General of Electricity of Cambodia (EdC), and Cham Prasidh, Minister of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation.

To create this exhibition, AFD hired Minor Act, a young participatory design agency. "Today, you will only see the final rendering of this project hanging on the wall. But it's the process by which the Women's Voices exhibition was put together that's important,” said one of the designers at Minor Act. “The creation of this exhibition was based on listening, watching, perceiving, discussing, and taking the ideas into account with total equality. The project was created with special attention paid to each person's personal story, with solidarity and a shared commitment to best capture the unique power of today's women's voices.”

AFD applies this commitment to the projects it supports. AFD Group's gender and development approach aims at a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities and a strengthening of equality in terms of participation and leadership for a fairer balance between women and men.

To do this, we take gender inequalities into account in each of our funding programs to propose tailored responses to improve the integration of women. As a feminist agency, our role is to agree with our partners on these key issues and to co-build a mutual understanding of gender inequalities in order to propose joint solutions.