Money Smart: how Cambodian soap operas are bringing financial literacy to a new generation

Boprek dreams of becoming a lawyer, but her family’s poverty makes her dreams seem impossible...

A Project of
We Can Do It (Wing Partnership)

Boprek is a middle school student living in an impoverished rural village of Cambodia with her mother and brother. They eke out a living selling fried bananas. Boprek dreams of becoming a lawyer, but her family’s poverty makes her dreams seem impossible. When Boprek’s brother is in a motorbike accident, he requires expensive emergency care, and they need to find the money – fast. Boprek’s aunt offers to send money from Phnom Penh, but the family knows of no services that can transfer the funds in time.

This is the narrative of a minidrama aired on EAI’s We Can Do It radio show in Cambodia. Already a success among youth throughout the country, in 2017, We Can Do It teamed up with mobile banking services provider Wing to educate Young Cambodians on financial planning, savings, and how to use the Wing service to transfer money. In a country where financial literacy is scarce, We Can Do It, in partnership with Wing, is bringing financial confidence and modern options to a new generation.  

Like Boprek, many young Cambodians face the logistical and structural challenges of their home country. From a young age, they go to work in garment factories to support their families, but without access to financial information that will help them plan for their own futures. EAI has found storytelling to be a powerful tool to grab young people’s attention and engage them with stories that parallel their own lives. On We Can Do It, the 30-minute radio drama on financial literacy is followed by a live call-in show with representatives from Wing available to answer audience questions.

Young Cambodians today are asking more questions and seeking support with life’s practical challenges, even when it may go against the norms of obedience to elders. Though poverty is still a challenge, through unique solutions like joint savings between friends and the use of new services, such as Wing’s, that offer lower transaction fees, this generation is mapping out their futures like never before.

“I have never listened to a financial education program before because I wasn’t interested,” said Sopheaktra from Siem Reap province. “But now, after listening to We Can Do It, I am very interested in this topic and learned many new things about financial services. I like listening to the radio very much, especially the radio drama.”

Fans loved the show so much, they started We Can Do It clubs, hundreds of listening and dialogue groups formed by enthusiastic listeners in communities across the country. Thousands of young members meet regularly to discuss program topics within the context of their own lives, organize local actions, and provide feedback to EAI.And as for the ending to our above-mentioned drama? Boprek’s brother was able to receive medical care when a neighbor pitched in with a loan. At the end of the narrative, Boprek’s own financial future looked brighter because she learned to express her financial goals clearly, make plans (including saving, little by little, for college), and approach financial institutions with more confidence. Boprek represents the new generation of Cambodian youth who, empowered with knowledge, see a way to a better future.

“I believe that I can buy a mobile phone by the beginning of 12th grade. I can do it because I will save R1,200 every day and can buy a phone within one year. I believe that I will be happy because I can buy what I want by myself. Finally, I want to say, ‘I can do it!’”
Dan Pidour
Prey Veng province, radio contestant

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