I am still moved by the Barcamp Phnom Penh on Saturday. It was such an impressing event, I never thought it will come true when we talked about a Barcamppp back in 2007 for the first time. But thanks to Tharum, Ramana and Viirak, it became reality.
We had some discussions about setting some speakers on the agenda, but then we decided to start blank - and it worked. That means at the end, that the participants accepted the concept of a un-conference - which is a huge step in a country like Cambodia. And it was a surprise that a high ranking government official were there the whole day and said thank you tothe organizers.
We also decided to offer two different places for talks, although we had concerns that most Cambodians are used to listen to one speaker instead of planning their own schedule. But it worked too and I am confident that for the next Barcamp much more Garden-locations and small rooms would be fine.
The range of topics was big, and that's what a Barcamp is about. From a Microsoft Commercial to How to date a Cambodian girl, there were a lot of different and even controversial topics.
That leads me to the last point: There was a discussion during the Cambodian girl dating session (which was kind of a hommage to Bangkok Barcamp), when one Cambodian girl asked, why we were talking about dating instead of serious problems the country is still suffering from.
Beside the fact, that Barcamp is also about fun, the point is cultural exchange. The dating topic is not a Cambodian topic, it pops up always on conferences. The cultural point is about the public relations between boys and girls. Cambodians are still shy and very cautions, especially girls. "It's our culture", they say. On the other hand, in every advertising, on live concerts or when they dress up, it's about looking sexy. So there is a gap between the cultural tradition, their own feelings and what maybe the (male) public is expecting.
There will be a change for Cambodian women, and I am confident, after they will be much stronger. They will dress sexy if they want, (and not if they don't want), but also kiss a boy in public. It's then a girls own decision and not a so called cultural thing anymore.
I know, that this topic is controversial, and I like to start a discussion about the role of Cambodian girls in the Khmer society. Thats why I choosed this headline, knowing that it will attract people as well as search enginge :-)