Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
And I strongly agree with his speech.
And I also believe that education is the pillar of women’s empowerment.
It has the ability to fight for gender equity by unlocking opportunities for girls.
Throughout Cambodian history, we, girls, had very limited options due to our “gender.” We were forbidden to make loud noise while walking because it was seen as disrespectful to the elders; we were forbidden from going out the house so that the sun would not darken our skin; we were forbidden from going to school because it was seen as a waste of time; we were forbidden from having a job because that was the role of the husband; most importantly, we were forbidden from making our own decisions. These were the issues that we had to deal with in our society.
Apparently, these ideas have been changing in our contemporary world ____ but not everything. Now, we have the rights to access education and attend school in our local areas and other places. Yet, there is still work needed to be done since the education system reinforces the ideas of what girls “can and cannot do.”
We, girls, think that sports are only for men because they are physically stronger or what we call “masculine.”
We think that technology and science are only for men to engage with because those complex things are what men do and that they are not “feminine” works.
This is why education is still flawed.
We need more. We need more than just the access to education. We need a better education system. We need an education system where we can allow ourselves to explore and chase our own dream without needing a shell like a hermit crab because of our gender.
In the Liger Leadership Academy (LLA), a boarding school in Cambodia _____ where opportunities are being provided equally to male and female students; it had given me the chance to redefine what girl like me “can and will do.”
Here, at Liger, I had been exposed to a variety of fields, ranging from playing sports to involvement in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) courses and projects. I was inspired to do things I want to do without caring about the gender barrier. I wasn’t being discriminated because of my gender either.
Whereby, in my former government school, I never had the chance to decide on what I wanted to do because of the gender stereotypes in my patriarchal community. “Girls shouldn’t study too hard; you’ll only be home to take care of your children” or “That is not the areas that you, girls, should be engaged with; it’s too complex.”
Within this perspective, I never had the motivation to release my wings and flying toward my true passion. I was stuck in the dark hole without a ladder to climb up. Liger was the beacon of light that had guide me from that dark hole.
Once I enrolled in my new school, the Liger Leadership Academy, the mindset about my gender changed completely. Now, I don’t have to worry about other people’s judgment when I kick the ball around the muddy fields or when I build a complex robot for a competition. I have my teachers, friends, and others who encourage me to accomplish my goal and who no matter what stick by my side to cheer me up every time I fail.
Phrases like “Girl, you shouldn’t do this” or “Girl, you can’t do that” shifted into “Girl, you’re doing great, keep going.”