Cambodia is the country that I belong to.
I always feel a sense of peace and beauty to be who I am. However, inequality between a man and a woman in my social context still exists. The older generation’s mindset still holds a negative perception on the role a woman or girl has in our society and sadly still so many of the younger generation also hold this negative viewpoint .
Many believe that a girl’s value is connected to her virginity; she cannot stay out at late night the same as man; she cannot go far away from home; she should get married at an early age rather than pursue higher education; We (women) cannot have the freedom to do what men can do, to be what men can be, with a lot of cultural expectation and pressure. These outdated viewpoints are still happening today!.
In the 21st century, the mindset of Khmer people including my parents and relatives has changed slightly, but sadly many still hold on to the old and oppressive values. I can see slow progress and changes happening; women & girls now have greater access to technology and education and are much more aware of their human rights. Many girls from my generation are lucky to have the freedom to be who they are and to choose what they want to do with their lives.
I am proud to celebrate March 8 as International Women’s Day because this day is about empowering women, encouraging women, motivating women, providing a platform to elevate women’s voices and to inform women and girls that they can do what men can do and can be what men can be.
Today sends a clear message to women and girls worldwide to be who you truly are.
International Women’s Day sends a strong message about what women’s role in society should be and to inspire them to realize their full potential.
In general, International Women’s Day in Cambodia is not a meaningful day and is certainly not celebrated by all Khmer women and girls. For many they would not even know this day exists. Interestingly, it is declared as a public holiday here, so if you are employed or attend University then you would know the day exists – you may even spend the day relaxing with friends and family, but most will not understand the meaning behind this day.
I am lucky that I live in the city of Phnom Penh. I work for a women and girls empowerment organisation, I have friends who believe in equality and the value of celebrating this day. We know how fortunate we are to have been educated.
But sadly, for our sisters who are from rural areas, who live in impoverished communities, who do not have access to education, today is just like any other day. I hope for a future where all my sisters, all over Cambodia will know their value and worth in today’s society and will have the freedom to choose how they live their life.
Celebrating International Women’s Day does not mean that I forget men’s rights. I know that many men in Cambodia have many challenges. They too are often exploited. There are many good men in our society who also challenge their peers and the older generation to stand up and advocate for change and to see their women friends as equal. Today is about highlighting equality.
In the future, I believe young women will play many important roles in Cambodian society; they will be leaders promoting change in the government sector, the development sector, the education sector, and will have greater decision making powers.. I am hopeful for a new vision of Cambodian women, fully participating and engaging in advocacy and social activities and will become stronger pillars for community change and development.
No longer will women’s worth and value be only associated with her virginity; no longer will women be told they cannot go out at night, there will be no more discrimination against girls having access to education. I am excited to see women and girls rise up in my country.
“Men deserve their right, why not women?”
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!
How will you #PRESSFORPROGRESS?
Career & Guidance Counselor
AusCam Freedom Project.
Leakna is our Career & Guidance Counselor and mentor to our Girls Leadership Council and a very valued member of our team empowering young women and girls.
Leakna is a wonderful example of the future for girls in Cambodia. She is a graduate from Royal University of Phnom Penh and was a Seeds for the Future grant recipient of the Young South East Asian Leadership Initiative. (U.S mission to ASEAN). The competition provides funding up to $15,000 for the ASEAN region’s most promising young leaders to carry out projects that improve their communities, countries and regions. Through this grant, Leakna co-founded Eco Life Cambodia.
PROTECTION & EMPOWERMENT THROUGH EDUCATION, MENTORING & LIFE SKILLS
AusCam Freedom Project believes girls should be 'taught not trafficked'.
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