Five criminology undergraduates at Solent University, Southampton, are to mentor young disadvantaged women in Cambodia.

The initiative presents a partnership between the university and the Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF). Developed by Nigel Lee, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Solent, and Scott Neeson, the founder of CCF. 

The two-year project aims to empower these young women to pursue their preferred career paths, particularly in STEM fields, thereby encouraging gender equality. The scheme began with a four-month pilot period that sees Solent student mentors connecting with their Cambodian 'mentees' weekly via an online platform.

Sophie Graydon, a Criminology student at Solent and mentor, said: "This mentoring scheme matters to me because it is an opportunity for me to learn about the culture in Cambodia from girls who experience this way of living. Having the chance to be able to listen to these girls’ experiences and support them, sharing my own experiences along the way to hopefully impact them positively, is amazing.

"To me, mentoring is important as it is a way of me having the opportunity to give back and build connections with girls who I would have never had the chance to meet otherwise."

CCF plays a role in uplifting and educating Cambodian youngsters from poverty-stricken backgrounds, providing them with the tools to excel in education and adulthood. In 2017, the charity inaugurated the Neeson Cripps Academy, a beacon institution educating Cambodia's most underprivileged children, located near the former Steung Meanchey landfill site, a resident area for many of the academy students.

Mey Sreyphkay, Grade 10 CCF student and mentee, says: "I feel excited that I can communicate with UK students and learn from them. This program is really unique. I feel nervous because it is a new experience for me but I'm really looking forward to it. Sharing about our lives and learning about another country and culture will also be interesting." 

The academy specialises in STEM education, and its five students have now been selected to be mentored by female criminology undergraduates at Solent University.