Niamh Cooney

 

Niamh first visited Cambodia in 2016 after completing her degree in Human Rights at NUI Galway. She worked for a social enterprise on a child hygiene programme and quickly fell in love with the country and its people. Wishing to extend her three month stay, she took a job in a local school where she learned through her students and colleagues about the pressures faced by young people in society. She became acutely aware of the high tolerance for interpersonal violence and sexual exploitation of girls.

In 2018, Niamh was asked to write the curriculum for a class of students aged 11-16. Determined to challenge the harmful gender roles and norms that are the root causes of violence in Cambodia today, she designed and implemented a bespoke gender equality class. Using a book based on the stories of young Cambodian women rising to power, the students were able to engage in conversation about the issues they face today. As it was a co-ed class, both the boys and girls benefited from having a safe place to discuss their feelings and thoughts. Niamh monitored the success of the class through an initial and final survey and discovered the positive effects it had on the students’ outlook on gender equality.

With the belief that this generation will shape the social and political future of Cambodia in the next decade, Niamh wanted to reach a wider audience and so decided to build a free educational program that would empower youth to challenge harmful norms that facilitate violence in society today. It is imperative that the programme be relevant, relatable and respectful to Cambodian culture.