Ritthy Ou is a founder of Sour Mouy which is a forum that connects high school students with experienced development practitioners and the pioneers in other sectors such as innovation, entrepreneurship, and politics. Since established in September 2017, the forum has been organized 15 times in 10 provinces. Ritthy is also a co-founder of Politikoffee who rose to fame as a political commentator in Cambodia. The Politikoffee is a forum that mobilizes young people to discuss politics related issues.
Q: How long has Sour Mouy been implementing?
Ritthy: Sour Mouy was established in late 2017, around September 2017. Sour Mouy gives opportunities to senior practitioners in social development to share their experiences with other young people. It has been implemented more than a year.
Q: You are a co-founder of Politilkoffee. Why did you create another forum after your return from grad school?
Ritthy: Politikoffee focuses on youth in the city who are interested in politics and policy. Youth in the city engage in the political discussion because they get enough information. The forum is well recognized as a platform that mobilizes young people to discuss politics related issues.
When we look at young people in other provinces, they don’t have chances to discuss these issues. So, I think we should have another forum to help young people in the provinces, especially to share the information. We share not just only issues related to politics, but other issues such as education, works, and scholarship, etc. We bring young people in Phnom Penh to share their experiences with other young people in the provinces. So, we connect young people in Phnom Penh and in the provinces closer.
Q: Do these two forums closely collaborate with each other?
Ritthy: Politikoffee and Sour Mouy collaborate, but focus on two different things. Politikoffee focuses on politics and policy that are relevant to national development. Sour Mouy focuses on the personal development of young people.
Q: What do you think about youth’s engagement in these two forums, especially girls’ participation?
Ritthy: It is slightly different. There is fewer women’s engagement in the Politikoffee. Women are about 30 to 40 percent of total participants of Politikoffee. Sour Mouy has a higher rate of girls’ participation than boys. I think, regarding personal development, career and education, more girls want to learn than boys. When it comes to politics and power, there is fewer women’s participation than men.
Q: Why do women participate less in the politics?
Ritthy: I am not sure about that. I think it has to do with personal interest. We invited both men and women to participate in our forums. But, more men than women engage in politics related issues. When we had a serious conversation about politics, more men have been involved than women. I think women are soft. They might not want to engage in a controversial discussion.
Q: How about Sour Mouy? Is it softer that’s why it attracts more women?
Ritthy: Sour Mouy is not about politics. It is a consultation platform that gives those young people’s advice to address their problems. For example, if he or she wants to get a scholarship abroad, we provide them with information and that’s it. That is not a debate platform.
Q: With Sour Mouy forum, who do those young girls ask? Do they ask only women or also men?
Ritthy: They also asked men, depending on the topics. For example, in case a man is successful in a particular area, the girls asked him questions if they are interested. But, some personal issues such as health and social relation that they want to talk to women, they contacted women. For some other issues such as startup and business, they reached out men as well.
Q: How many women mentors do you have on Sour Mouy?
Ritthy: We have fewer women mentors than men. We have about 50 mentors. We have about 20 women mentors.
Q: Why does Sour Mouy have fewer women mentors than men? What are those women’s challenges?
Ritthy: I don’t know about their details. But, I think it is about their interests. They might not want to display their profiles in the public because Sour Mouy is a public forum. But, there is not much different in term of the number between male and female mentors at Sour Mouy.
At Sour Mouy, we face another challenge. We have about 50 mentors and 200 mentees. We have about 200 mentoring bookings that have not been confirmed by mentors. We have only 54 discussions between mentors and mentees.
Q: What are your strategies to engage women in both forums, especially encourage women to be the mentors at Sour Mouy?
Ritthy: First, even though online platform helps to connect them, they need to meet face to face. We want to have one or two times a year to bring mentors and mentees together. So, they know each other more, and they can consult some of their personal issues with each other.
Second, it is about technology. We need to make our website more accessible and more comfortable for young people in the provinces who use the only smartphone to connect with their mentors. We need to encourage mentors to communicate with mentees so that they will be able to confirm the mentoring booking.
Q: I am wondering what are the incentives for mentors to confirm their mentoring booking?
Ritthy: The mentors don’t want money. Sometimes the mentees make mentors bored. Mentees don’t know how to ask mentors. For example, mentees dropped mentors a message as “hello! I have a question.” But they don’t write their questions. Sometimes mentors tried to respond, but they didn’t get the questions of mentees. I think we might need more public forums in the provinces to guide young people on communication skill.
Q: Has Sour Mouy done that?
Ritthy: We have done about 15 forums that we also integrated ICT skill. This is an essential skill for them to communicate with mentors. For example, those young people in the provinces use Facebook, but only a few of them has email accounts. So, ICT can help them to strengthen their communication skill.
The next interview will be on his vision for Sour Mouy and Politikoffee, and his interest in politics.n