UN Women-organized workshop creates innovative ways to improve women’s lives
Author: Sreynich Leng
Phnom Penh, Cambodia — Seventy young people participating in a UN Women-organized “Ideathon” have come up with innovative solutions to the problems women in Asia face in school and at work.
The Innovation for Impact (i4i) Ideathon brought together 70 women aged 18-25 from across the region to discuss ways to improve women’s participation in the workforce and small-medium businesses, personal safety and especially sexual harassment, and access to higher education for girls. The Ideathon, in Phnom Penh on 10-12 November, was the first such event held by UN Women’s Cambodia office.
Facilitators from Singapore guided the participants on how to use Design Thinking and The Wallet Experience to produce creative ideas to solve problems.
One of the facilitators, K. Veerapandiyan, said Design Thinking involves first understanding the needs of the user or community and developing insights to meet those needs. This may require reframing the problem. The next stage is collaboration to generate ideas and solutions that address the root cause of the problem. The final stage is developing a prototype to bring the ideas and solutions to life and to test them with the user or the community.
The participants also heard from inspiring speakers who helped as mentors in the event and who believe that every young woman and girl deserves to equally participate in education and in the workforce, and to do so in environments that are safe.
Sylvia Chim, Director of Sustainability Asia and Pacific of the Japanese personal care company Shiseido, talked about how to become a female leader.
“You are a product of not your circumstance but you are a product of your decision,” she said. “So no matter what card you have been dealt with in life, it’s the personal decision that you take that will decide your fate and your future. You have to first of all start off by respecting yourself enough to know that you deserve access to education, equal employment, same wages as men if you are doing the same job, and you are the creator of your own destination.”
Yehuda Ben Simon, Head of Learning Academy for Asia and Pacific and Japan for the U.S. information technology company HP, also served as mentor at the event. He said there is no such thing as a tech job that women cannot do, and he urged them to apply for openings. Sometimes no women apply, so HP has no choice but to hire a man, he said.
The Ideathon participants divided into small groups to work on their solutions. The group that was judged to have the best solution won a study tour to the e-commerce department in Singapore of Charles and Keith Group, a footwear and accessories retailer.
Emmauelle Mace-Driskill, Executive Director of Products and Strategic Planning of Charles and Keith Group, said the study tour participants would learn how e-commerce is structured, what type of software were used, digital elements that are critical to use on websites, and the importance of marketing and communications for the web.
Montha Kanika, a 20-year-old Khmer student, explained how her winning team figured out its solution to sexual harassment. Three team members who are from the computer science field applied their skills while the rest of the team contributed ideas. The result: a smartphone application to support women who have been harassed at the workplace and e-sunglasses that can be connected to a smartphone to record evidence.
Sarah Knibbs, Acting Country Representative of UN Women Cambodia, told all the participants: “This afternoon I’ve honestly been blown away by the smart and innovative ideas you have come up with. But I’m also impressed by the way you work; you shared passion, commitment, confidence, bravery and solidarity.”