The other side of Neang Sovathana's life

She is rather known as a know-all person. Asked anything, from social issues to love problems, she might just give you a surprising answer. Her name is Neang Sovathana, or known as DJ Nana. She is such an inspiring individual; she snatches her life from the hand of destiny and builds it up with determination and perseverance. Volunteer work has always been a part of her life since the age of 14, not only for her own benefit, but the society as a whole. The CambodiaCircles reporters have talked to her recently to record her story behind the success.

Nostalgic Childhood Memories

Neang SovathanaSovathana was born in 1986, in Kampong Cham province, Cambodia. She is the oldest daughter of the family with two younger sisters and a brother. Her mother is a clothes retailer while her father involves more in society as a human right activist. “My family was very poor, and still is,” she jokes, “but my parents never let me give up my education.”

Besides formal schooling, Sovathana invests most of her time in self-study, including studying English with her father. “I still remember that I was the only kid in my village that knew English alphabets from ‘A’ to ‘Z’,” Sovathana proudly says.

Due to financial constrains, she used some stuff in her house as multi-purpose tools—the back of the closet could be used as a chalkboard for her daily at-home class. “Funny enough; we still keep that closet until now!” She says with amusement.


Early Career

When she was 14 years old, Sovathana started her first job as a volunteer at an organization at her hometown. Not many young girls in her age were willing to do volunteer job, or even understood what volunteerism was, but Sovathana, unlike others, looked at the world in a wider perspective.

 “When I was little, instead of going to playground, I went with my father to see a land dispute,” Sovathana says, “and that made me grow up with a concept of helping others.”

In 2002, after doing multi-tasks as a volunteer for one year, she applied for a new position as a paid interpreter at another organization. Her duty was to accompany a group of foreigners coming to observe the process of election in her province. Little did she know that working with organizations have her space to practice her English, gain confidence, and grant more freedom from her parents.

She says, “Like other parents, my father didn’t give much freedom to his daughter, but when I started working at an organization, I earned my father’s trust and experienced the so-called ‘freedom’.”

Not only had she experienced her freedom to the fullest in local level but she had also got a chance to travel to Sweden as an intern with a program called Youth’s Partner Development for three months when she was only 16.

In 2004, the organization she used to volunteer recruited a staff to work in Phnom Penh office, so she decided to apply and moved to the city after having been selected. Her new life in the city was not enjoyable, but overwhelmed with workloads. 

Success in Career

Sovathana is an opportunity grabber – able to seek better chance and recognize it. In 2007, she changed her workplace again to Citizen Action Net for Social Development as a core team member and a co-producer of radio program. She has been working there until now, for she has more time to re-focus on her higher education at Pannasastra University. “Working here gives me more time to study: I don’t have to travel to provinces so often,” She continues, “Although I’ve changed to a new workplace, I actually didn’t quit my volunteer jobs, adding up more each time, instead.”

Nowadays, apart from her current job, Sovathana becomes a president of Initiative of Change Association and a radio host at Lovely Night talk show at Sarika FM 106.5. Her career life appears to be hectic and unmanageable. However, behind this feminine appearance, there is heart of steel!

She explains, “Having been working all those volunteer and paid jobs teaches me a lot. The more tasks I have to do, the easier it will get to finish each task.” Experiences she has received reinforce her ability to finish each task more effectively and efficiently.

“No matter who you are, a prime minister or US president, we all possess 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. To make things go smoothly, all you have to do is to assign the right persons to do the right jobs.” She says.

Challenge & Opportunity

“The higher position you are in, the more responsibilities you will have, and more eyes will be set on you,” Sovathana says,”and it sometimes limits my personal freedom.” She is known as an expert in giving advices on love and romance issues by sharing her real life experiences. Because she stands on the honesty-is-the-best-policy ground, she has to share what she actually does not want to.

“Being a love advisor at radio talk show, I am happy when more people listen to my show, but I’m not when they become too dependent on me.” She concerns. However, she optimistically believes that her words of encouragement do make a difference in her listeners’ lives. To give them hope and to make them become their own fate holder is what she aims for.

When asked what benefits she has got from her work as a love advisor, she says, “Listening to callers’ problems, I learn more real-life lessons that are not taught at school, and free of charge!”

Sovathana holds a big ambition of being one of the most influencing people. She wants to make a big name in society. Working in the field of media gives her a means of being more popular and making her voice heard. “I am also interested in human trafficking problem in our society. I wonder what I can do to help.” She stresses.

Even though I want to continue working in Media, quitting school has never been my option.” She adds. As an advice for Cambodian youth, she suggests, “Don’t stop studying because study is like eating rice which is what we all do for our whole life.”

Article by: Vann Chanvetey  & Kim Kotara
Photographs sent by the interviewee
Read Neang Sovathana's blog at

About Writers:

Vetey profileVann Chanvetey is a sophomore of Media Management at the Department of Media and Communication (DMC), and also a junior at Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL). Writing is what Vann Chanvetey calls 'Creativity Booster' and it brings enjoyments to her life and also encourages her to study Journalism at the first place. She would devote her spare time to writing, blogging, and reading. She started working for the CambodiaCircles in November 2011. "I regard writing and reading as my closed firends," said Chanvetey. She blogs at


KotaraKim Kotara is a sophomore of Media Management at the Department of Media and Communication (DMC). She said if she was asked to choose whether to write or speak about her mind, she would choose to write because she could express her ideas more clearly in writin. She started working for the CambodiaCircles in November 2011. "By starting writing from today on, I hope that I can sharphen my writing skills and inform, educate, and entertain my readers through my articles," said Kim Kotara.