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Cambodian Girls compete in a Mobile App Competition, Pushes Boundaries for Women in Technology

Cambodian girl coders achieve recognition at a Global Competition

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The five Cambodian girls of the app team Cambodia Identity Product, right, stand next to other coders from India and Hong Kong, at Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit competition at Google headquarters
The five Cambodian girls of the app team Cambodia Identity Product, right, stand next to other coders from India and Hong Kong, at Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit competition at Google headquarters. VOA
  • We want to increase employment for Cambodians
  • In Cambodia, just 14 percent of students in information technology were women

A group of Cambodian girls who recently traveled to California to compete in a mobile app competition offered inspiration for other girls worldwide to consider careers in technology.

Their pitch in Silicon Valley wasn’t a bid to be the next billion-dollar company. Instead, they want to help their country with a mobile phone application to address poverty.

“Let’s fight poverty by using our app. Don’t find customers for your product, find products for your customers,” said Lorn Dara Soucheng, 12, who led the team that created the app, Cambodian Identity Product.

“We want to increase employment for Cambodians, so there will be a reduction of Cambodian migrants to work in other countries, reducing poverty through making income and providing charity to local Cambodians,” Chea Sopheata, 11, told the judges at Google’s headquarters. Google was one of the program’s sponsors.

To participate in the Aug. 7-11 Technovation global competition, girls around the world had to build a mobile app — and a business plan — that addressed a U.N. development goal. The Cambodian girls picked poverty.

While globalization has boosted the economic growth of Cambodia, especially its tourism industry, it has also created greater economic inequality and competition. The girls think their app can help.

“We want to promote our culture to people from all over the world,” said Lorn Dara Soucheng.

At their young age, no one expects these girls to be able to solve their country’s most pressing issues quite yet. But their presence here highlighted another issue: girls in tech fields.

In the U.S. and worldwide, the number of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) remains low and has even dropped.

In Cambodia, just 14 percent of students in information technology were women as of 2010. It’s a situation some attribute to a lack of equal access to education and a lack of female role models.

It’s hoped that programs like Technovation can reverse that trend.

“For the first time in history, technology can really help girls have a strong voice and help us have a society that has equality,” said Tara Chklovski, founder, and CEO of Iridescent, the nonprofit organization behind Technovation.

These young Cambodian girls have proved how far they can go with technology. Most come from underprivileged backgrounds but had support from teachers, mentors, and family.

Cambodian American Pauline Seng, a program manager at Google, said the young coders have become role models for many other Cambodians, including herself. She didn’t get into technology until she was 23.

“There’s going to be so many people who aspire to reach this stage and also inspire other people to get involved in technology,” she said.

Although the Cambodian girls did not win the grand prize, which went to a team from Hong Kong, they were proud to have made it to Google and Silicon Valley.

After watching the male CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, speaking at the closing ceremony, the girls said they believed the tech giant would one day have a female leader.

“Yes!” they said, in unison.

Whether that will come true or not, they have themselves already become the youngest role models to inspire others, one girl at a time. (VOA)

Next Story

California to Require Public Universities to Offer Abortion Pills at Campus Health Centers

California's Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday signed the bill into law, which requires the states' 34 universities to offer abortion medication beginning]

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FILE - People rally in support of abortion rights at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., May 21, 2019. VOA

California has become the first state to require public universities to offer abortion pills at campus health centers.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday signed the bill into law, which requires the states’ 34 universities to offer abortion medication beginning in 2023.

The medication is a first-trimester procedure that involves a woman taking two pills to create an effect similar to a miscarriage.

Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, who is also a Democrat, vetoed similar legislation last year, arguing that abortion services were “widely available off-campus” and so did not need to be provided by state universities.

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FILE – California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., July 23, 2019. VOA

Democratic Senator Connie Leyva, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement Friday, “Abortion is a protected right, and it is important that everyone, including college students, have access to that right, if they so choose.”

Leyva has argued the bill would help young women who cannot get to outside abortion providers because of transportation or financial obstacles.

The bill has been opposed by religious and anti-abortion groups.

The University of California system has not taken a position on the matter but has raised concerns about the cost of the procedure as well as concerns over security issues related to providing abortions.

Also Read- Light Smoking also Damages Lungs, Says Study

The law does not require California universities to offer surgical abortions, which can be done past the first trimester.

Abortion medication can only be administered during the first trimester. It is different from the morning after pill, which is already available at many university health centers across the country. The morning after pill is taken after sex to block a pregnancy before it begins, while abortion medication ends a pregnancy after it has begun.

California’s decision to increase access to abortion comes at a time when many states are limiting the ability of women to receive abortions, leading to a flurry of legal challenges. Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to review a Louisiana law that opponents say would force most of the abortion clinics in the state to close. (VOA)