Cambodia's SheThinks Network

March 16, 2022 The Asia Foundation
Cambodia's SheThinks Network
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Cambodia's SheThinks Network
Mar 16, 2022
The Asia Foundation

Cambodia has an outsized need for up-to-date research data to anchor effective policymaking and spur development. But women must become a bigger part of this story.

Show Notes Transcript

Cambodia has an outsized need for up-to-date research data to anchor effective policymaking and spur development. But women must become a bigger part of this story.

Sry Bopharath (00:00):

I feel that I was excluded from the conversation, even in the office. I was the only one woman in the room and I feel that they exclude me even in the discussion about the work.

John Rieger (00:17):

Making a place for women in Cambodia's research community. Today on InAsia, from The Asia Foundation. I'm John Rieger.

Tracie Yang (00:24):

And I'm Tracie Yang. As Asia's appetite for data for development has grown, Cambodia's nascent research culture has shown signs of falling behind, from the paucity and poverty of its research institutes, to the lack of scholarly networks, conferences and journals where researchers can share their work. Equally troubling for the nation's knowledge sector, just 30% of Cambodian researchers and an even smaller proportion in leadership positions are women.

John Rieger (00:51):

Joining us now from Cambodia are the Asia Foundation's Sry Bopharath and researcher, Res Phasy, a PhD candidate in social anthropology at the Sorbonne Paris 1 University in France. They're here to talk to us about the She Thinks Network, a project to support women researchers in Cambodia. Phasy and Bopharath, welcome to InAsia.

Sry Bopharath (01:11):

Thanks John, for having us today.

Res Phasy (01:13):

Thank you, John.

John Rieger (01:13):

First of all, I have a question. Phasy, is that your rooster in the background?

Res Phasy (01:17):

Yes. It's the rooster of the neighbor again.

John Rieger (01:20):

It's the neighbor's rooster?

Res Phasy (01:21):


Tracie Yang (01:23):

So Bopharath, in your essay in this week's blog, you described Cambodia as having a shortage of researchers. Is there specific research that Cambodia needs more of? Or is it just a matter of having research culture?

Sry Bopharath (01:41):

Well, to have the environment for researcher is a very important. The knowledge sector in Cambodia is quite small. And for example, we have only 17 researchers per million workshops, conference, or even publications. It's very scare here. They saw change of the academic journal, the limited opportunity for collaboration and also exchange. And we have to have a thrive environment that involved researchers to showcase their studies.

Tracie Yang (02:11):

Res Phasy, what are your thoughts on that?

Res Phasy (02:13):

Cambodia went through these dramatic transformations economically and socially, so there are a lot of thing that need to be study and documented and to have more data for policy making. This is something that I think the government now is more open to.

Tracie Yang (02:34):

Bopharath, in your essay you talked specifically about the underrepresenation of women. Why is having women represented in research networks so important?

Sry Bopharath (02:46):

Well, the answer to that is, women researchers when they are included in the research process and also policy making process, the issues regarding women can be included and can be solve. We give them voices and they're more inclusive in the decision making.

Tracie Yang (03:09):

So when women conduct the research and lend their voice to bring to light certain issues that actually helps policy makers make more informed decisions?

Sry Bopharath (03:20):

Yes, that's correct.

Tracie Yang (03:22):

So why don't you tell us a bit about the She Thinks Network?

Sry Bopharath (03:26):

She Thinks Network is the first women research network in Cambodia. It hopes to make the research space more inclusive and to amplify women's voice in research. Last year in February, we have 20 women researchers that came together to talk about the challenges they facing and how they overcome it. This is how this network happen.

Tracie Yang (03:52):

Can you talk a little bit about the challenges that these women face, what they talked about?

Sry Bopharath (03:57):

The first one is on the field work. For example, when they go to the field work, they not as welcome as men. Women researchers go to the rural area and they face a lot of insecure in the village, for example. They have families, they have kids, so they find it difficult to have time for their research career. They have to have another role at home. This is some of the challenges that they mention.

Tracie Yang (04:27):


John Rieger (04:27):

Yes. Res Phasy, let's turn to you. You are a PhD candidate in social anthropology at Sorbonne Paris University. It's a long name. At Sorbonne Paris 1 University in France.

Res Phasy (04:41):


John Rieger (04:41):

That's pretty good. You joined the She Thinks Network at the very start and you helped formulate some of its objectives. Why? Why did you get involved?

Res Phasy (04:50):

I have been engaged in the research since 2013. I must say, this is like, the She Think Network is a pioneer. I don't think there's anything like this specifically for women. I was more drawn to it emotionally or personally. I thought that it can be a great space for women to share not just our professional work, but personal issue that we face going to the field work or trying to get a job or advance our career. I see it as more informal where we can discuss literally anything that is important to us.

John Rieger (05:35):

I would like to hear a little bit about your experience specifically as a woman researcher.

Res Phasy (05:42):

I would just share what it's like for being in the field for me, like Bopharath have mentioned. It's mainly the personal security. And I think you have to prove yourself all the time. When I go to the village, people would, especially men, try to, not directly harassing, but it's like, I call it more like negative masculine energy. Sometime it's quite overwhelming. I feel like it's a way of rejecting my role.

John Rieger (06:18):

I suppose working in social anthropology you have to do a lot of field work and you have plenty of opportunities to encounter this kind of resistance that you describe?

Res Phasy (06:29):


John Rieger (06:30):

And I guess She Thinks is a great place to share some of those experiences and just get the feeling that you're not alone?

Res Phasy (06:36):

Yeah. Joining the gathering with other women, although maybe other women are working in a different level. I remember one was sharings, she was working with the ministries of the economic or something and she faced different issue, but it's also kind of gendered. When she try to share her thought, she felt like being less listened to compared to her male colleague. And men, they can have their outside time like drinking, gathering. That's like they can create more bond, which women always feel excluded from that.

Tracie Yang (07:16):


Sry Bopharath (07:16):

Yes. I was also a researcher before joining the Asia Foundation, and I feel that I was excluded from the conversation even in the office. I was the only one woman in the room and I feel that they exclude me even in the discussion about the work.

Res Phasy (07:37):

Personally, the support that I mainly need is emotional support from the network.

Tracie Yang (07:44):

Right. And not holding kind of that burden on your own, because you had mentioned, just psychologically, that just the energy that even men give off is also exhausting. That takes a toll.

Res Phasy (07:55):

Yeah. It's a kind of woman supporting each other to stand strong, continue to fight.

John Rieger (08:03):

Cambodian researcher, Res Phasy and the Asia Foundation's Sry Bopharath. Thank you both for joining us today.

Res Phasy (08:10):

Thank you, John and Tracie, for having us.

Sry Bopharath (08:11):

Thank you, John and Tracie.

Tracie Yang (08:14):

That's our show for this week. Sry Bopharath has written in more detail in this week's InAsia blog about the She Thinks Network and it's work to build an inclusive research culture in Cambodia.

John Rieger (08:25):

And remember, you can subscribe to our podcast absolutely free wherever fine podcasts are distributed. We hope you'll do so. Until next time. I'm John Rieger.

Tracie Yang (08:34):

And I'm Tracie Yang.

John Rieger (08:35):

Thanks for listening.