Crédit Émilie Porée.

Look At Her: The inspiring one

TRANSLATED BY CORALIE FRACHISSE AND PROOFREAD BY CARA EVANS-GILLEN

As part of the “Look At Her” project, Emily Porée is travelling across Southeast Asia to meet women from all walks of life to draw their portrait. In Phnom Penh, she interviewed Thavry Thon, who participated in the international conference “Asian women private sector tourism” organised by Oxfam.

Thavry is 27 years old and grew up on a farm 22 miles from the capital with her parents and two brothers, Rithy and Sela. “In my village, not all girls go to school. Most the time, they stay home and help in the fields and with chores around the house ‘ she explains. Thavry considers herself lucky that her parents allowed her to pursue her ambitions by going to school. In 2007, she completed an IT degree and then went to the Czech Republic for three years where she studied Information Management.

On her return to Cambodia in 2012, Thavry did not want to work for a company. She wanted to ‘be [her] own boss and keep her independence”. Thavry began to work freelance and became a reporter for TV channels and radio stations in Cambodia. She was able to travel to different Cambodian provinces in order to write articles and produce documentaries on various topics. Cambodian ethnic minorities, orphanage tourism and the impact of Chinese companies in Cambodia are among the main topics she talks about. ‘I love this job. I’m able to learn more about my own country. I travel, I write with passion and I share the outcome with many! ‘ she says.

The Toursanak adventure

In 2013, Thavry decided to take part in her older brother Rithy’s adventure. For four years, Rithy has been managing Toursanak, a local travel agency which enables foreigners to come to Cambodia and spend a few weeks with Cambodian families. Thavry became the company’s managing director in 2013. She is in charge of finding Cambodian host families and organising activities. She also has to keep an eye on groups of young travellers throughout their stay. She also manages Toursanak’s team of staff, composed of four managers, two instructors, a web developer, a driver and twelve students.

Thavry has taken part in numerous conferences and collaborative workshops through her “desire to pass on her knowledge”. Education and the place of women in the Khmer society are the main topics she tackles. As of today, she has taken part in twenty-five interventions in NGOs, high schools and universities. “Every time, I stress the importance of education and on how it changes lives” she explains.

‘I devour four books a month’

Thavry’s main passion is still writing. At eighteen, she published her first fiction novel. Today, she is very proud to show her fourth book, A Proper Woman. 1,030 copies have already been published. Thavry shares her life story in her latest book. With this book, Thavry hopes to inspire young girls in Cambodia and around the world. She encourages them ‘to follow their passions and to work hard for them’. Thavry emphasises the importance of maintaining their independence and detaching themselves from the social constructions of their culture.

As well as her management career at Toursanak, her many conferences and her passion for writing, Thavry still manages to find time for one of her favourite activities: reading. She ‘devours four books a month : fiction novels, autobiographies, books about philosophy. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is my all-time favourite”. “I want my society to change,” she concludes.

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