May 22, 2017
Your Excellencies at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports; the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts; and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs;
Ladies and gentlemen:
Welcome. I am pleased to be with you today for the Cambodian premiere of the award-winning documentary CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, directed by Robin Hauser. Robin and fellow filmmaker Heather Courtney are visiting Cambodia as part of the American Film Showcase program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy, with support from the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Robin and Heather have traveled all the way from the United States to share their expertise with Cambodian students, artists, and aspiring filmmakers. We hope that this program will inspire Cambodians to follow in Robin and Heather’s footsteps and to use the medium of film to tell stories that are important to them. We also have with us today Alan Baker, an Associate Dean at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Robin, Heather, and Alan, please stand up and be recognized.
This powerful documentary which debuted at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival takes a close and critical look at the gender gap that exists in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers — and why it is important for society to ensure we have a diverse pool of experts in the technology and computer science sectors. You will see examples of inspirational women leaders in STEM profiled in this film – the challenges they overcame, their passion, and their drive. This is the same kind of passion we see among Cambodia’s youth and its growing tech sector.
And that is why the United States has proudly supported public and private sector efforts to promote STEM education, including the Science and Engineering Festival, organized by STEM Cambodia, and hackathons and technovation competitions through our USAID Development Innovations Lab. I’ve met countless young Cambodian women who have stayed in school despite pressures to drop out to work, pursued their dreams, and forged new paths for their peers.
We have to continue to do more to promote women to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing Cambodia and the world.
Last week my four year old son told me that his classmates had decided on what they would be when they grew up. One wanted to be a firefighter, another a teacher, another kid a dinosaur. My son told me “Mom, I want to be a scientist! Can I be a scientist?” And I told him absolutely yes. Our answers should always be absolutely yes – and provide the tools, resources, and encouragement for all our children to pursue the path they wish.
We have many wonderful partners from the government, international community, NGOs, and private sector in the audience tonight. I want to thank all of you for what you are doing to advance STEM education in Cambodia. This is a team effort, and I’m proud to see so many diverse actors coming together to further this common goal. I hope this film inspires us all to unify in order to encourage more diversity within STEM education and careers.
Thank you all for coming tonight, and I hope you enjoy the film.