By Sunita Mager
March 8th marks International Women’s Day, and at Phare, we celebrate and salute the Women of Phare for their immense contributions in shaping the society and for being role models to Cambodian youth today.
Choub Kanha and Nov Sreyleak, two of our talented and busiest stars of the Phare family, have been performing in Siem Reap since 2013. They’ve grown and matured into famous professional performing artists and have proven to themselves, their families and to Cambodian young women that with strong determination anything is possible!
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Kanha: Women’s Day is a celebration of all women coming together to celebrate being a woman.
Sreyleak: When I was young, Women’s Day had no real meaning; it was an ordinary day. It wasn’t until I began my career and became a wife that I understood what an important day it is. For me it’s a time when I reflect on memories with my mother and sister.
What are the traditional views of women in society? What has changed?
Kanha: Many people believe that women are weak and soft. But that is not true. Cambodia is still very traditional, for example, arranged marriages are still common, many think women belong in the kitchen and that they don’t need any education.
Sreyleak: But we see how things are changing too. There are more young women in schools, and they are getting well-paid jobs after graduation. I think that Cambodia will develop into a modern country and we will still keep our culture as women and be gentle, respectful and understanding.
Have you ever experienced inequality because you are a woman?
Both: No. Never. We have been lucky.
Kanha: We were given opportunities to study and to participate in social networks and we are motivated to achieve our dreams in life.
As a performer, you need to be mentally and physically strong. Do you think women today need to be just as strong?
Sreyleak: Yes, I do. They need to be strong enough to handle various tasks, multitask and support their families. But women also need to be gentil.
How do you envision Cambodia in the future for women?
Sreyleak: My hopes for women in Cambodia is that they will continue and finish school and become strong leaders in society.
Kanha: …With less traditional pressure. I think in the future women will be better educated, have their own businesses and develop into independent women that are just as confident as men are.
How do you encourage young women?
Both: By being role models.
Kanha: If there are no role models, women can not be successful. We need to show them how to overcome real life struggles, give them hope, confidence and opportunities to study and succeed.
What is your message to young women in Cambodia?
Both: Be strong, determined, focused on your goal and stay away from drugs!