Plan International Cambodia (PIC) hosted a recent two-day forum to discuss some of the challenges facing the Kingdom’s girls and young women.

The “Cambodian Children, Adolescent and Young Women [CAY] Engagement in Decision Making” forum took place on February 7-8.

It was designed to identify common issues faced by CAY, and to attract inputs into a joint influencing action plan, and develop a draft of a three-year influencing strategy.

The forum also aimed to identify a form of CAY engagement coalition for future dialogue with key decision-makers and policymakers.

Addressing the forum, PIC country director Gwynneth Wong explained that the organisation’s strategic goal is to achieve a direct positive impact on one million out of 2.5 million girls through an integrated programme for the fiscal year 2026.

“Through an integrated programme and diverse representation, PIC strives to empower children, with a focus on adolescents and young women, by building their ability to express concern and advocate for themselves,” she said.

“We can do this by recognising the important role of CAY as the country’s future human resources, and by investing in developing their capabilities, in line with the government’s sustainable development goals [SDGs] and Pentagonal Strategy. Despite improvements in youth engagement and gender equality, CAY’s engagement in decision-making remains restricted,” she added.

She reiterated that PIC is committed to continuing its partnership with stakeholders, including government institutions, to support networks and groups of children, adolescents and young women in ensuring the engagement of CAY. In addition, it aims to increase the engagement of CAY voices, to influence key stakeholders in solving their problems.

Te Chhunhak, director-general of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs’ General Department of Gender Equality and Economic Development, said the ministry has been cooperating on a number of issues, such as the prevention of early marriages and women’s leadership empowerment programmes.

He explained that the empowerment programmes focus on components including strengthening and expanding initiatives such as networks of girls in leadership, as well as training and capacity building programmes to promote girl’s leadership.

He added that the ministry also focuses on promoting policy support and public, community and guardian participation, as well as the expansion of new research programmes and arguments in support of gender leadership programmes.

“This event is an important part of promoting the participation and exercise of the rights of CAY, so they become capable, confident leaders. PIC has been actively involved in implementing the government’s policies and commitment to promote gender equality, the role of women and girls, and the development of youth capacity, a pillar of the nation,” he said.

He said such forums would provide important inputs for ministries, institutions and relevant partners, including the women’s ministry and PIC, enabling them to design and sharpen programmes and projects that would enhance the engagement of CAY.

Lek Kary – a young Prov indigenous woman from Ratanakkiri province and an ambassador of the female equity and rights campaign – said at the forum that she was determined to work hard to learn, both in and out of the system, to take advantage of any opportunities to develop her capacity and engage in solving girls’ issues in Cambodia.

She added that she intended to continue to work hard until girls and young women receive full education, gender equality and equality with males, both in terms of work ability and decision-making.

“I urge all stakeholders, especially the women’s ministry and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, to continue to encourage children and youth, especially young women, to make decisions and engage in addressing their challenges by outlining their needs and solutions in public forums to achieve their goals and dreams of becoming active citizens and future leaders,” she said.