International Program

Staff report on Asian Young Women’s Leadership Development Seminar 2024 in Cambodia

The theme of the Seminar: Where is HOPE?
Theme Verse:  “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
                              Isaiah 40:31 (first half)
Dates: February 19th to February 26th, 2024

The Asian Young Women’s Leadership Development Seminar was conducted in Cambodia four years after its last seminar in Singapore in 2020.
The face-to-face gathering after such a long hiatus was eagerly anticipated, not only by Wesley Zaidan but also by all involved.

The theme of the 2024 seminar was “Where is HOPE?” which brought together 28 participants from 12 Asian countries including Japan (Cambodia, Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos), ranging from university students to those in their late 30s. (Japan dispatched 5 representatives.) As the participants return to their respective roles as leaders after the seminar, they are expected to engage rather than passively observe during the sessions actively. 



The Asian Young Women’s Leadership Development Seminar, apart from the COVID-19 pandemic period (2021-2023), has been conducted annually until 2020 in various Southeast Asian countries.
In previous seminars, attendees explored the host country’s culture, history, and societal issues. However, this year, participants were tasked with researching and submitting reports on the “social issues” young women face in their own countries beforehand. They then presented their findings during the seminar.

In addition to the initial task mentioned earlier, each participant selected one of four themes related to women: 1) Women’s leadership in the church, 2) Women’s choice in life, 3) Women’s Independence (mentally and economically), and 4) Women’s health and self-care. A survey was conducted beforehand to understand their preferences, and during the program, time was set aside for group discussions on these chosen topics.



The seminar’s first day started with a worship service led mostly by Cambodian participants. (The liturgist, praise leader, and message from a female pastor of the Cambodian Methodist Church were all led by Cambodian representatives.)

After the service, an orientation session introduced the six female leaders organizing the seminar and the guests. Female missionaries sent by the Methodist Church and past participants of the AYWLD played important roles as leaders during this seminar.


The three women served as leaders in various capacities to ensure the smooth running of the seminar, including coordination, preparation, and photography during the training sessions. Typically, these women are involved in managing a dormitory for young Cambodian women, supporting female students in areas such as selection processes, dormitory life, and activities, as well as providing vocational training in hairstyling, nail care, and pastry techniques to promote the self-reliance of young women. During the orientation, they explained the two projects they oversee, the Susanna Wesley Dormitory and the Shine Project, giving participants a deeper understanding of their activities and personalities.



On the first evening, participants changed into traditional dress from their countries and shared dinner, enjoying the richness and differences of Asian cultures. Throughout the training, participants took turns leading nightly prayers, and each country took responsibility for morning devotions, ending the day with reflections and freely sharing what they had learned and felt, fostering understanding and empathy.

The seminar included Bible study, lectures, presentations from various countries, daily reflections, and outings, focusing on the theme “Where is HOPE?” Participants explored and discussed hope from various perspectives, including a Bible study session on Isaiah 40:28-30, reflecting on the concept of hope as presented in the Bible. Leadership lectures encouraged group sharing of experiences and thoughts based on pre-session surveys.



In the afternoon, there were presentations from each country, highlighting various social issues faced by young women, such as structural gender inequalities, violence against women, early marriage and teenage pregnancy, career choices and evaluations in the workplace, and the low percentage of women pursuing research careers.

On the third day, participants visited sites in Phnom Penh related to Cambodian history and social issues, including the Killing Fields, where they learned about the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.





They also had lunch at Jars of Clay Café, where they heard from the female owner about the café’s activities as a workplace for women affected by human trafficking, as well as her journey, challenges, leadership struggles, and how she believes God has used her.

Subsequently, participants deepened their bonds during a shopping excursion at the Central Market, housed in an Art Deco building constructed in the 1930s.


The fourth day’s Bible Study session, titled “Anchored in Hope” (Hebrews 6:19), encouraged participants to reflect on symbols of hope and how Christians overcome challenges through hope in God, culminating in a short skit where they shared experiences and learned from one another.

Sharing experiences proved essential and uplifting for young women, serving as encouragement and strength, as observed daily.


In this seminar, we invited a speaker who has long been involved in one of Cambodia’s social issues, human trafficking. She is also an alumna of the AYWLD 2015. She shared stories about her activities in the NGO and her personal journey over the past years.

On the final day, participants were divided into six groups to create posters representing “HOPE,” culminating in a collective artwork symbolizing hope. The concluding session reassured participants of the presence of hope, as seen in their expressions of confidence.

The “Sharing Show” provided an opportunity to witness participants’ leadership skills, with two participants acting as MCs, fostering a sense of camaraderie among the 28 women who, despite meeting just four days prior, sang, danced, laughed, and enjoyed themselves wholeheartedly.

The seminar concluded with a ceremony recognizing the successful completion of all activities. Each participant received a certificate of participation, followed by a closing worship service where participants actively contributed to the service, affirming their departure with the light of hope.

In a world often fraught with uncertainty, the seminar served as a reminder that hope exists. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the five-day seminar underscored the value of spending time together in person. Sharing meals, praises, prayers, and turning our hearts to God together constitutes a significant experience that will enrich the lives of young participants in the future.

The successful execution of the seminar, after a four-year hiatus, was made possible by the faith, prayers, and substantial contributions of the three Cambodian women leaders, for which we are deeply grateful. Furthermore, we are delighted by the active participation of past seminar attendees, who now serve as leaders and instructors, reflecting the enduring impact of our leadership training program.

Reflection of Participants:

“I realized that as a Christian, hope means knowing how to pray and being able to pray for others. Moreover, discovering new insights and perspectives without straying from Christianity was of significant importance to me. Although I had previously struggled to understand the significance of being a Christian, I now confidently affirm, ‘I know what I believe in. I know how to pray, and I can pray for my neighbors.’ This, I believe, is the most significant change I’ve undergone through this program.” (22-year-old university student)


“Before the seminar, I had many interests but lacked clarity about what I wanted to do. As a Christian, I was unsure about how to proceed and spent days filled with uncertainty and anxiety. However, after the seminar, I gained a sense of purpose in confronting many challenges and realized that there are many things I can do as a Christian. I feel transformed from someone who used to conform to the flow of others to someone who now thinks about doing what I want to do at my own pace.” (21-year-old university student)