Bun Tharum, Phnom Penh
Cambodian women bloggers say the Internet is helping them challenge a traditional order that has typically silenced them and to find new ways to air their grievances with society or government.
Blogging can provide a useful outlet for the computer literate, including women, at a time when some groups say they are concerned the space for dissent is shrinking in Cambodia.
It has become harder for groups to gather to voice their grievances, or simply to celebrate.
On Tuesday, for example, a coalition of women workers were barred from gathering on International Women’s Day by city officials, and other groups say they have encountered similar resistance from authorities.
And so some people are turning to online platforms, including many women. Online space not only allows for more public discussion, but it can also be a way for women to have a voice where traditionally they haven’t.
Chea Lyda, a researcher with the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s department of media and communications, conducted an online survey of 71 Cambodian bloggers last year, including 26 women. She conducted interviews with 15 women bloggers.
She found the women were well educated and were “vying for the virtual space dominated by men,” according to her findings, which were presented at a conference in Singapore last July.
Most bloggers, women and men alike, are educated.
Half of the bloggers Chea Lyda surveyed were graduate students, with another 38.5 percent at the undergraduate level. The rest were high school students. Most wrote in English.
Chea Lyda argues that blogging is empowering Cambodian women, “by promoting a sense of agency and of community.”
Keo Kounila is among those bloggers. She has used her own blog as a way to speak out against some of the poor administration she faces in the country.
At a TEDx conference, which was organized last month as a discussion of Cambodia’s future development, she told of her use of the Internet to highlight a land dispute her family was having with its neighbor, including the corrupt behavior of local officials.
“The day before, the two district officials who cited my mother to file a counter-complaint pressured my mother to slip a rather huge sum of money under the table,” she said. “In relation to this, days before my mother was cheated to sign a permission letter to let them install their pipes, the same officials came to my home and pestered my parents every day. Can you imagine what a headache, to have someone come ask for money with threats every day?”
Authors say they can use their blogs to approach such problems.
“Through a blog, I can say whatever I want,” one blogger told Chea Lyda. “It is a platform for expressing and sharing ideas and experiences to contribute to social change.”
Recommended web links:
Cambodia: Rally Barred on Women’s Day
Blogging The New Generation of Cambodia
What Can I Say?
Presenter Gary Bryson travels to Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore to meet people who are trying to find a voice for their village, their culture or their nation.