ACE Teacher Speaks at Ignite Phnom Penh

By Khema Vatey Soeun, ACE Teacher

Ignite Talks is a public speaking platform where each presenter has 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds, accumulating to five minutes. It was started in 2006 by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis. Since the first event took place in Seattle, USA, Ignite has become an international phenomenon, with events organised in over 350 locations around the world from the UK to Germany, Finland, Egypt, India, China, Korea, Japan and Australia.

Ignite was brought to Cambodia for the first time in 2016 by Bill Chea and Lucky Tou as Ignite Phnom Penh. Ignite’s mission is ‘Everyone Speaks’. Ignite believes that public speaking builds confidence in individuals and that events like Ignite build communities. The goal is to make it possible for anyone, anywhere, to learn to present their ideas and stories.

My Experience

I spoke at Ignite Phnom Penh in late 2018. My Ignite talk was called ‘Women’, with my students at ACE having inspired me to speak on this topic. Personally, I have always been empowered by my family and peers to do my very best in both my education and my professional life, and most importantly to be independent. However, not every woman is privileged and fortunate enough to be exposed to the education and opportunities I have had so far. Simply put, women’s empowerment refers to giving women equality in education, the workplace and other opportunities in life.

KhemaVatey Soeun at Ignite Phnom Penh

How, Why & Who?

I believe that one way to empower women is to enable them to access education, that is, to give them the opportunity to learn to read, write, communicate and make their own decisions. Education opens the door to opportunities that allow us to make better decisions about what to do and not to do in life. So, when women are educated, we tend to opt for better career paths and partners, and to play a more active role in family planning. We become independent: the captains of our own lives.

When we empower women, we empower our mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and future daughters. Moreover, we not only empower women, but also others in our community, including those we love, care for and know. Regardless of race, colour, religion, disability, age or gender, all of us can support women. You don’t have to be gay to support the LGBTQ community, and you don’t have to be a woman to support women’s empowerment.

Ignite speakers on stage 

Everything starts with women. We need to know that we deserve equal access to education, equal pay and treatment in the workplace, equal access to opportunities and the knowledge that women can achieve anything as well as men can, and sometimes even better!

Without such beliefs, discipline and confidence, we won’t go far. With or without a supportive family or society, we must still work hard all the way through life. Let’s say, for example, there is a discussion table and you are a woman who is not invited to sit down. Then you know what? Build your own table! Say something and do something, don’t wait until you are given a voice. Start now from YOU!


Speaking at Ignite Phnom Penh was a challenging experience for me due to the time commitment required to attend meetings, prepare and rehearse. Nevertheless, it was all worth it, and I always believe in giving back. I am glad to have done my Ignite Talk on women’s empowerment in front of an audience of 1200 people. I really hope that everyone, regardless of gender, learned something from this talk and will continue to support women.

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