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Photos from the first gathering of the Cambodian Women Writers Committee of PEN

Cambodian Women Writers Committee Gathering

May 31, 2014

By PEN Cambodia

On May 31, 2014, about 70 Cambodian writers, photographers, artists, teachers and students, reporters and journalists and those who love to promote literature in the country gathered at the Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh to celebrate the new establishment of the Cambodian Women Writers Committee within PEN Cambodia.

The objective of the gathering was to create opportunities for Cambodian women writers, especially young writers, to share their experiences with one another and discuss ways to improve quality of their works; participants have to commit to encourage women writers to take part in the development of literature and freedom of expression in Cambodia through their writings and publications. At the meeting they discussed ways to distribute women writers’ works (books/writings) and copyrights’ matters.

For the Work of PEN Cambodia in the years to come, our discussion in the gathering was primarily about the work of the Cambodian Women Writers Committee, and a commitment to accomplish the main objective of the establishment of Cambodian Women Writers Committee: the Cambodian Women Writers Committee will work with Cambodian writers, particularly women writers, in order to promote women’s literary works and enlarge their public space in the society. Also, the committee will work in collaboration with literary organizations as well as Women Writers Committees in the Asian Pacific region and the Women Writers Committee of PEN International.

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[A Staff’s note on the Activities of the gathering:  One of the most interesting agenda presentations was when about 10 famous Khmer women writers passionately introduced themselves showing achievements of their works so far, their current writings and their literary projects which include research-related ones, poems, novels, children books and short stories. It was very fascinating to have those talented writers whose works have been distributed and read all over the country to join and share their writing experiences with many participants.

The elderly writers aged around 50, 60, and 70 work tirelessly to keep writing and preserving Khmer literature and arts for the next generation.  Besides writers, there were many artists as well. A young man silently sat among many others.  He is not just a person who is interested with the gathering but a talented photographer whose recent project “United” has been translated into 3 languages (Khmer, English, and French) and is on sale in France. There was another music composer who came from Siem Reap to join the gathering.

A female writer who is quite active in her 70s showed her research on the symbols of Khmer classical dance and more. She told how she has discovered a type of plant which Khmer people had been used long before the arrival of the contemporary hair chemical products.

Writers also expressed their concern and frustration over the lack of protection from the government, which is one of the sad things being writers in Cambodia. One writer expressed her anger over the piracy actions affecting her newly published novel. Others have lost hope of earning money from writing books in the kingdom. One suggestion from another participant was that the authors must sign and give each book a serial number. Doing so, they know immediately who is copying their books. Still, the message is “to recognize the copied books” only.

The gathering was very well organized and valuable. It was not only an opportunity for writers to catch up but also an event where concerns were raised following by suggestions to act. In sum, it was such a great honor to know these talented/inspired female writers in Cambodia.]