Berk Chet Festival Heads to Phnom Penh

After a successful stint in Battambang, the Berk Chet Festival is heading to the Cambodian capital this weekend, with a host of activities that promote social inclusion and diversity
Traditional performers at Berk Chet Festival. Kiripost/supplied
Traditional performers at Berk Chet Festival. Kiripost/supplied

The Berk Chet Festival is headed to Phnom Penh this weekend after a successful celebration of Cambodia’s diversity in Battambang.

Impact Hub Phnom Penh and Oxfam are behind the festival on September 3 at Factory Phnom Penh, from 2pm to 8pm. This is the second Berk Chet Festival after the first took place in Battambang on August 27.

Berk Chet aims to celebrate and increase awareness of the diversity and inclusiveness among the five rightsholder groups of people with disabilities, LGBTIQ groups, women who are subject to violence or exploitation, the elderly and vulnerable youth, and indigenous groups and ethnic minorities.

Melanie Mossard, CEO of Impact Hub Phnom Penh said, “The festival provides a platform to showcase inspiring initiatives promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Berk Chet Festival offers a unique opportunity to mainstream these essential topics in both Battambang and Phnom Penh, exposing the work of these organizations to the broader public.”

Berk Chet will also highlight the initiatives carried out by NOW-Us! Award Cambodia awardees. The celebration will be conducted in Khmer and interpreted into Khmer sign language. Additionally, Berk Chet will also feature knowledge exchange sessions, team building exercises, and presentations of the NOW-Us! Award Cambodia winners' projects.

During the festival, performances will also take place to honor the accomplishments of the distinct communities of rightsholder groups while illustrating their conditions.

Sophoan Phean, Oxfam National Director, said in a press release, "Oxfam is pleased to join with our partners to promote and raise awareness about inclusiveness and diversity. In accordance with the "Leave no one behind" policy, we enable the community we work with (rightsholder groups) to fully engage in social development.

The press release stated, “The Berk Chet festival honors the efforts of the seven NOW-Us! Award recipients in Cambodia. Through these activities, marginalized and minority groups were given the means to challenge prejudice, amplify their voices, and improve accessibility through embracing diversity and inclusion. To ensure that our needs and challenges are taken care of, it must begin with each and every one of us adhering to the maxim "Nothing about Us, Without Us".”

Impact Hub Phnom Penh launched the "NOW-Us! Award Cambodia" program in partnership with Voice through Oxfam in 2021. Through cutting-edge initiatives, including capacity-building bootcamps, addressing the underlying causes of rightsholder challenges, and fostering creative solutions, it seeks to empower and increase awareness about inclusion and diversity.

The program also emphasizes professional and personal growth, including project and financial management. Following the bootcamp, teams presented their cutting-edge social projects to an impartial panel of judges made up of partners and Voice grantees from other civil society groups that cooperate with the five rightsholder groups.

Seven teams representing these organizations received funds from Voice over the program of two seasons of NOW-Us! Award Cambodia to carry out projects that amplify voices and foster inclusivity for their particular communities.

Voice is an innovative grant facility that works to support the representative organization or informal group of the most marginalized and minority groups across 10 countries in Southeast Asia, East and West Africa. Besides this program, Oxfam through Voice supports about 20 grantee partners working with marginalized and minority groups to empower and enhance their voices and capacity to fully participate in decision-making in community and societal development.

Thay Pichmony, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Program Manager at Impact Hub Phnom Penh and festival manager, said, “The festival takes a hope-based storytelling approach through interactive workshops, informative booths and fun but meaningful concerts. The festival has the component of inclusivity.” He added there will also be interactive sessions hosted by NOW-Us! Award winners, such as a sign language workshop and using art to tap into emotions.

Furthermore, informative booths from civil society organizations, such as HelpAge Cambodia and Phum Asia, will be on show alongside others that showcase indigenous people’s traditions, LGBT movements and more.

“The Berk Chet Festival aims to promote the arts and culture of our five rightsholder groups, including performances that showcase the cultures of indigenous people, LGBT people and others,” Pichmony said.

“I hope everyone joins us at the festival, no matter whether you are LGBT or not, a person with disabilities or not. I hope you join us to celebrate, as well as learn, so that together we can achieve a more inclusive world.”

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