Young people in Cambodia are struggling against unemployment and low incomes. But without information about the skills employers are looking for and the training they can apply for, it is difficult for them to take control of their own lives. Klahan9 is an entertaining and informative media initiative that gives young Cambodians information about jobs and education.
Among the Cambodians who have a job, four out of five spend time on unpaid work within the family or in self-employment. A majority works in the unofficial economy with its low incomes, often poor working conditions and lack of social safety nets. This is shown by data from the 2008 census.
There are also studies showing that students do not know which skills the labour market is looking for. Many young people want to move to a larger city or abroad, but lack the knowledge they need.
Meanwhile, the country's employers are finding it difficult to find personnel with the right skills.
Spreading information through radio, television and social media
These are some of the challenges that Klahan9 wants to tackle. Klahan9 is a radio programme produced by Sida-supported BBC Media Action, with UNDP as implementer. The programme has a popular Facebook page and a television programme. Klahan9 also meets its audience by touring the country, giving young people the chance to listen to guest speakers, do role play and participate in discussions about jobs and incomes. There is also close cooperation with Cambodia's National Employment Agency (NEA), which contributes both to Klahan9’s impact and to the training of the NEA's own communications department.
The programmes disseminate information about jobs and education in an accessible and entertaining way. This might involve the importance of planning for the future, for example.
“Many young people say they want to become teachers or doctors, but they often lack a plan for how to achieve that goal,” says Rachael Canter at BBC Media Action in Cambodia.
The programmes also discuss the fact that there are many different types of job to choose from, that people should not let themselves be limited by preconceptions and that not only academic training is available but also vocational training.
“Many people living in rural areas wonder if they have the chance to go to good schools and how their studies will be financed. How do student loans work, can I work and study at the same time? We call in experts to answer questions but also let young people participate and contribute their thoughts and feelings,” says Rachael Canter.
Knowledge makes it easier to take control of their life
Traditional values often make it complicated for young people to negotiate with parents and other adults, and they are not encouraged to ask questions or look for information. This makes it difficult for them to take control of their own lives. Many young women avoid certain types of job because their families do not consent. Khalan9 uses actors to depict this type of potentially sensitive issue.
“Many rural families adhere to the traditional roles of men and women. For this reason, young girls who want to do something that is not considered "normal" for girls need to learn to negotiate with their parents. Parents might also put pressure on young people to migrate and send money home to the family.
One of Klahan9’s viewers is 30-year-old Dara who together with her husband and two children lives in Battambang province near the border with Thailand. She makes a living by manufacturing and selling rice paper used in cooking. The programme has given her several tips and has made her more confident in her contact with customers, and she also charges more.
“I've now begun to talk more with my customers, which makes them more interested in buying my products. I previously sold just one or two packages of rice paper a day, but now I sell between five and twenty,” says Dara.
24-year-old Rina, who works in a clothes factory in the capital Phnom Penh, usually listens to Klahan9 on the radio. For her, it was particularly interesting to learn more about saving since she wants to buy a tuk tuk that her husband can use as a taxi. She says that although she had long thought about saving money, the programme gave her a concrete picture of how to go about doing so.
Many people reached through media
In order to create long-term changes in a society, it is necessary to influence the attitude of a large number of people. Here, television, radio and social media are important channels for reaching a lot of people. Over 90 per cent of Cambodians watch TV, which is the most widespread medium. Cheap Chinese smartphones are also giving more and more people access to social media.
“It means that we are competing with a lot of popular content from Thailand and other countries. So it’s important for our content to stand out and really engage young people. We use music, celebrities and drama and keep pace with the latest trends in social media. Everything is permeated by the important messages we want to convey,” says Rachael Canter.