Catherine V. Harry is 23, has 243,000 Fb followers, generates between $1,000 to $2,000 a month from her vlog, A Dose of Cath, which focuses on sexual and reproductive well being, and she or he doesn’t a lot care if folks disagree together with her on girls’s rights so long as they talk about the subjects she considers necessary.
In Cambodia, what units her aside is her willingness to tackle the standard social and cultural code, the chbap srey, which defines expectations for Cambodian girls. Though not taught in colleges, it’s a mindset with deep cultural roots that sees good girls as quiet and obedient. Harry, nevertheless, sees it as a device of oppression, one which enshrines gender inequality and masks violence towards girls out and in of their properties by encouraging them to stay silent.
Harry began her girls’s rights advocacy in 2012 as a blogger confronting the chbap srey. She launched her Fb vlog in February 2017 with sufficient weekly subjects mapped out to see her via the primary 50 weeks.
She posts each Saturday night time, a time slot that appeals to her viewers, principally younger girls like herself.
“I speak to them as mates,” she says. “I received’t lecture them so I may be certainly one of their mates. I share what I do know to them. So, they’ll relate themselves to what I share.”
Taking over taboo subjects
Harry vlogs about taboo subjects, corresponding to menstruation, contraception, abortion. Most of her clips common about 100,000 views. A post on virginity, “Is the worth of girls decided by virginity?,” has handed 2 million hits and hundreds of feedback — not dangerous in a rustic of 16.three million folks, 6.8 million of them on Facebook.
Harry deliberately selects what she describes as “the controversial subjects” and points a name to motion with every publish.
She responds to all feedback and appreciates unfavorable suggestions as a result of, as her vlog manufacturing assistant and boyfriend, Panha Chum, the 25-year-old proprietor of a Phnom Penh translation agency, says, “No less than they’re able to perceive what we wish them to know.”
“I would like folks to debate concerning the subjects that I increase. Their disagreement received’t matter a lot to me,” Harry mentioned.
Not everybody appreciates Harry’s outspokenness, mentioned Chindavotey Ly, coordinator of the Pupil Success Program and former president of the coed senate at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.
“However when she talks about these subjects, each women and men can perceive that these are the problems of girls’s rights,” Ly mentioned.
Inside a 12 months of the launch of the vlog, Forbes journal put Harry on its “30 underneath 30” checklist for Asia.
“It is very important have a debate on the subjects that haven’t been mentioned or have been restricted,” mentioned Chantevy Khoun, who heads the Women’s Rights Team at ActionAid Cambodia, which has labored with Harry. “She … dares to interrupt the taboos.”
Harry wasn’t all the time a taboo-buster. Born in Phnom Penh, her dad and mom, Solyna Svay and Sambath Hun, named her Soksovankesor Sambath, and raised her conservatively. Her father confused issues like not carrying quick shorts in public, and never assembly mates within the night.
“Once I was younger … I didn’t care about gender and inequality within the society,” Harry mentioned. That modified in junior excessive when, with out web entry at residence, she started logging on at espresso retailers “to study social points. … I feel my life has modified since then.” She additionally grew to become concerned with the Love 9 project at BBC. “I met many individuals who had been enthusiastic about girls’s rights. I took motion. I ultimately grew to become who I’m in the present day.”
New title, life at 17
Harry forged apart Soksovankesor Sambath when she was 17 and took the title Catherine V. Harry, to signify her new persona and worldview.
Her mom embraced her new daughter.
“My mom was so powerful on me after I was younger. She dictated all my choices. I informed myself that I wouldn’t move it on to my daughter,” Solyna Svay mentioned. “My daughter … lacked confidence when she was younger. Now she contributes; she helps society. She empowers different women to make choices independently and to problem conventional … practices.”
Harry defines feminism as individuals who work to advertise the equality of all folks.
“Generally, after I drive or journey on the street, I’ve been catcalled by strangers,” Harry mentioned. “I, typically, have been adopted or approached by strangers after darkish. So, my freedom of motion shouldn’t be granted. I really feel I’m residing underneath strain and unsafe.”
Males lose, too
Cambodia’s patriarchal norms additionally harm males, Harry says, as a result of “a person can not reveal his emotion. Generally male victims of rape and sexual violence are discouraged to talk [because] culturally a person shouldn’t be thought of a sufferer of rape.”
Harry, usually criticized, isn’t contemplating backing down anytime quickly.
“I contact the delicate problems with the society. If there will likely be no unfavorable feedback on my movies, I don’t suppose it will be efficient. I would like folks to start out discussing the subjects. Folks, who agree or disagree with what I’m doing, have a platform to trade their concepts,” Harry mentioned.
“I feel it isn’t a nasty factor, however conservatives discover it intensely unacceptable,” mentioned Solyna Svay, who worries about Harry, “however I’m nonetheless constructive. Others’ feedback are others’ points.”
Harry mentioned that whereas many individuals assist and respect her work, many disagree with and devalue it. A few of her mates unfriended and unfollowed her on Fb.
Some nonetheless want to protect a norm that Harry deems oppressive, the chbab srey.
“A buddy of mine mentioned, ‘That isn’t within the faculty’s curriculum anymore. Why would you care about it, whereas others wouldn’t?’ ” Harry mentioned.
“That individual doesn’t perceive that the idea of chbab srey is embedded in folks’s minds. Whether or not we now have identified it or not, we nonetheless observe it,” she added.
However issues do change. Harry now has her father’s full assist.
“My dad debates with individuals who criticized me on my Fb web page,” Harry mentioned. “He explains to them that I would like adjustments on girls’s rights.”
Harry’s boyfriend, Chum, one other convert, says “feminism isn’t just about girls — it’s for all.” Harry’s stance is, in his thoughts, “logical. People ought to be equal.”