An education initiative designed to curb the threat of gender based violence in Cambodia has been devised by Baylin native, Niamh Cooney.
The co-ed violence prevention programme will be afforded to 12-17 year old students in the south east Asian nation and is the fruition of much intellectual endeavour from the former Our Lady’s Bower student who first visited Cambodia following the completion of her third level human rights studies in 2016.
To complement her work on the education initiative, the aim of which is to end gender based violence by guiding adolescents through a specifically structured programme, she is striving to attain financial support for its continued implementation and to that end with the assistance of trustees has established SAME-Cambodia, a charitable non-profit organisation to which donations can be made.
“I initially moved to Cambodia in 2016 where I started working at an international school focusing primarily on educating students within the 12-17 age category.
“Predominantly a friendly nation, I was to realise through numerous discussions relating to local culture, that females were not viewed in the same manner as males with equality not in existence, a feature very much accepted in the daily lives of the Cambodian people.
“Unfortunately, gender based violence is very much prevalent and I was deeply saddened to hear that violence enacted against females was a common occurrence and accepted,” Niamh asserted.
As the academic year proceeded, Niamh queried her body of students with regard to such persistent inequality gauging their responses as thoughts of a self-developed co-ed violence prevention programme began to ruminate.
“The thought process was one of creation and the development of a violence prevention education initiative which would initially be taught to 12-17 year old students attending international schools in Cambodia, the themes of gender and equality being core to the programme.
“Those students who have participated in the programme to date have found it wholly beneficial to their thoughts and beliefs and I am firmly determined to implement the programme in both local and international schools nationally within Cambodia,” Niamh emphasised.
With such a mindset, Niamh placed a pertinent focus on enhancing the violence prevention education programme during the inaugural country lockdown in March 2020 and with an intention to return to Cambodia as soon as public health guideline restrictions permit, Niamh built upon the content of her initiative which she believes will further benefit the lives of the students to whom it is imparted.
“The educational programme aims to prevent persistent violence now and into the future with numerous content components. Based on five units, to include human rights, gender equality, relationships, safe touch and self defence, it is hoped that imparting such relevant knowledge will enable the formation of stronger beliefs amongst the student bodies in Cambodia,” Niamh continued.
SAME-Cambodia was formally registered on October 30 and has gained initial financial traction but due to the continuous presence of Covid-19 fundraising activity is predominantly curtailed for the moment.
“Unfortunately, at this time, we are not in a position to go door to door seeking financial support for the programme. Ours is a low cost charitable non-profit organisation so all funds raised will go directly towards this education initiative.
“With this in mind and to enable continuing implementation of the programme, I would urge the general public to donate €10 per month towards our cause. While I have the face to face education programme experience, the board of trustees, namely, Ethel Gavin, Chairperson (former Governor of the Midlands prison ) Catherine Gallagher, Secretary, Martina Keogh, Designated Child Protection Liaison and Brendan Doyle, Treasurer, boast additional expertise in violence prevention, psychotherapy and human rights and I am wholly indebted for their knowledgeable assistance,” Niamh concluded.