By Sakshi Jain, MIPP Student
Greetings from Phnom Penh. It is hard to believe that I have been living in Phnom Penh for a month already. The days are going by so fast! And yet, when I look back upon my first week, it seems so long ago.
I am from India, so coming to Phnom Penh has been like meeting a friend after a long time, it’s both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The constant bustle on the streets, the crazy traffic, the crowds in the Russian Market all remind me of home, but the language and customs and food are all very new and exciting.
My weekends are spent exploring the city and learning Khmer at a local restaurant where young Cambodians run a free language café, and we all share a meal together at the end of each class. Thanks to this café, I am now able to successfully converse in Khmer with my tuk-tuk drivers, which are my most fun interactions during the day. My other absolute favorite thing about this city is ease of availability of coconuts. Ever since I joined the UNDP office, I have made it a point to get a coconut everyday.
I am working at UNDP Cambodia, for the Policy and Programme Units. Working for both departments gives me the opportunity to learn how policy is made and implemented at the grassroots level. My work on the policy side will start in mid-October. As for programmes, I am working on the United for Youth Employment Joint Programme (UNJP).
In Cambodia, youth (aged 15-30 years), make up 33 percent of the population, and represent a significant portion of the labour force. An estimated 300,000 young Cambodians enter the labor market every year but most of them are employed in informal sector, working in vulnerable situations. The UNJP supports the Royal Government of Cambodia to provide policy advocacy to equip youth with quality education, and establish a link between employers and job seekers. This way, the UNJP aims to facilitate young people’s entry to the labour force while reducing inequalities, particularly for the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, and ensure that young women and men are better able to meet labour demand in the country.
The programme is a joint initiative by 5 UN agencies – ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, and UNV and is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. UNDP’s key role in this programme is to provide research support.
As for my role, apart from smaller projects, I am mainly supporting two key outputs – the creation of an e-learning platform that allows young Cambodians to access free vocational courses in order to pursue at their leisure; and a research study that examines the relationship between the economic returns at individual, household, and national levels of investments in education and technical vocational education and training. This research will identify areas for policy and programme interventions, which can improve and expand relevant skills trainings for urban and rural Cambodian youth. I am also helping to organize a project that will work with youth and youth-led organizations to build their leadership and advocacy skills and capacity to engage in strategic policy dialogues, as well as the formulation of employment related policies and programmes. I am quite excited about this project. It started as I joined the team, and my hope is to be a part of the entire project cycle in the six months that I am at UNDP.
Everyone in the office has been very welcoming and interested in making this a worthwhile experience for the interns. A few days ago, I went on a field visit to Siem Reap, and had the opportunity to observe stakeholder consultations and learn how decisions are made at the ground level. I’ve also participated in many high-level meetings and witnessed the complicated process of designing and monitoring programmes. Such meetings have helped me grasp the scope of UNDP’s work, and I have truly come to appreciate the many moving parts that contribute to the success of a programme. I am extremely grateful to have this learning opportunity.
Currently, we’re in the middle of Pchum Benh, a 15-day Cambodian festival during which families get together to pay respect to their deceased relatives. I plan to go travelling during this time, and experience some of the much talked about beautiful beaches in this country. Stay tuned for the next chapter of my adventure!