You Sotheary grew up without the Internet and social media. When she was young, there were not many stories of women role models she could look up to in the mainstream media. The only woman she had to inspire her was her mother, who she lived with.
In 2014, she started a blog to kill her free time. This was the first step before in late-2018 she found her passion to launch Next Women Generation (NWG), an online platform with podcasts that features stories of role model women. The NWG founder enjoys documenting incredible life-changing experiences to share with her audience.
After graduating from Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy with a Master’s degree in International Development Policy, the 32-year-old now dedicates her free time to amplifying stories, mostly those of young, dynamic women in Cambodia.
“It’s my passion. Before this, I occasionally covered leadership stories; entrepreneurs with interesting stories.” As there are not a lot of stories about women, Sotheary realized, “What if there were an online platform mainly for women?”
Inspired by the stories she was told during interviews, she was determined to keep her NWG project going. To date, Sotheary has interviewed more than 50 people and is still counting.
What motivates her the most is hearing women talk about their personal challenges and how they overcame them.
“I’ve interviewed a number of women, those who are self-starters. Women who started from scratch in their entrepreneurial pursuit,” she said. Most of her interviewees are some of Cambodia’s most highly-educated and self-made entrepreneurs.
Putting Cambodia’s inspirational women leaders in the spotlight
Those interviewed by Sotheary are young, well-accomplished, and inspiring Cambodian women in various fields.
One of the latest women to feature on Sotheary’s podcast is Tor Kimsy, an expert in statistics, probability, data science, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI).
The only student to graduate high school with an ‘A’ grade in 2010, Kimsy is currently an assistant professor at American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP). The young math wizard earned her PhD in Computational Statistics from Telecom Paris, and master’s and bachelor's degrees from the United States.
When asked about Sotheary’s dedication to tell women’s stories, Kimsy said, “[I got to] know Sotheary when she first contacted me for the interview for NWG.” She added, “She's an inspiring woman and I totally support her work.”
Kimsy told Kiripost “I do think a platform like NWG is very important. It showcases meaningful and important works of many women in various fields in society. Wondetful stories like this need to be heard and shared, not just to inspire young Cambodian women but to inspire young Cambodian men as well. It is a transformative platform.”
Theng Sotheapanha, who won the Women of the Future Southeast Asia Awards last year, has a Master's degree in Communication, Media, and Creative Industries from Paris Institute of Political Studies. She currently runs media start-up 606 Digital.
The other inspiring woman Sotheary interviewed is social media influencer Neang Sovathana, also known as DJ Nana, who runs Dj NanaTips, which has a following of 1.5 million on Facebook.
Most of Sotheary’s questions center around how these well-accomplished women thrive, their work ethics, and their know-how.
“The beauty of the stories of women I talk to, these women have the courage to share with me and my audience. They may not be willing to share with others,” she said.
“What I learned from interviewing these amazing women is commitment and perseverance,” she added. “When deciding to do something, they commit to it. Not anyone can do anything one time and succeed. If we keep pushing, we’ll get there.”
Sotheary, though, does not regard herself as a journalist, even though she spent a short spell working in a newsroom. “I’m not a professional journalist,” she said.
She added, “It’s a future asset. It’s a sense of belonging. It’s a hobby to take a break from other work. When they share their stories with me, they tell me how they cope with pressure and overcome challenges. These are the things that keep me going solo with this NWG project.”
As a prominent promoter of young leaders through inspiring stories, Sotheary admitted, “I don’t expect to have fans” like other online influencers on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Tik Tok.
Yet, in 2020, Sotheary was highly commended finalist for the Women of the Future Awards Southeast Asia in the Community Spirit and Public Service Category. Adding to her accolade of achievements, last year, she was a Visiting Research Fellow at Future Forum, a Phnom Penh-based think tank.