In this episode, we are joined by Thavry Thon for an inspiring talk about education, literature, and social change in Cambodia. Thavry is the author of several children’s books and a Proper Woman. She is also the co-Founder of the Seavphovjivet, a publishing house dedicated to supporting Cambodian authors and inspiring young people through literature. Thavry also tours the country speaking to young people about the value of education and taking control of their destiny.
The conversation begins with Thavry discussing the influence of her parents. She explains, “my parents believed in education, and told us it was the ticket to a better life.” Other friends would quit school in grade 9 or 8 and go to work at garment factories to earn $80 to $100 per month but Thavry’s parents had a different strategy. “They invested in the long term education of their children in the hope that their children would have a better life than they have”. Thavry reflects on the sacrifices her parents made. “People talked about her [Thary’s mother] behind her back for being foolish.” But after seeing Thavry and her brother’s success, the perspective of education and towards her parents changed. Now they see them as “successful parents who raised their children well.”
Empowered by her parents, she started the journey towards becoming an author and founding a publishing house. Along the way, she was granted a scholarship to study in the Czech Republic and wrote two children’s books through the Room to Read program. Eventually, she turned to write books for young adults, including A Proper Woman, which is an autobiographical account of challenging her country’s social and cultural norms about being a woman.
When she went to publish a Proper Woman, she “found it difficult and frustrating dealing with many of the publishing firms and book shops, and felt there had to be a better way.” So, she decided to learn how to publish herself and joined forces with other writers to create a Seavphovjivet Publishing.
Together they hope to reinvigorate the publishing industry in Cambodia and support the love of reading across the country. There is a perception that people don’t like to read in but according to Thavry “readers don’t want to read because they cannot find good books to read.” Part of the problem is publishing firms don’t give enough support to authors. Seavphovjivet is on a mission to change that. “We know what writers feel like because we are writers too. We want to treat them fairly”, Thavry explains. Based on their approach, they were able to entice one of Cambodia’s favorite authors, Mao Samnang, back to writing novels after nearly a decade long hiatus.
Thavry’s mission is to inspire young Cambodians so she regularly travels the country speaking at schools and shares her story and the message that “it doesn’t matter where you are from, your destiny is your own. You design your own destiny.”
Photo Credit: Eldon Lee JinHu