Keang (right), 17 years, Cambodia
Keang is a 17 year old high school student from Kampong Cham, one of Cambodia’s most highly populated provinces along the Mekong river. “Believe it not,” she says, “I don’t know how to swim!”
4 years ago, Keang’s parents divorced so she, and her sister, were sent to live with their aunt. Her aunt has a small eatery which Keang helps her run, when not at school. Keang also teaches basic Cambodian language literature to young students for some extra income to support her studies and is determined to complete her own education:
“My uncle-in-law who once says to me, ‘If a girl like you can ever finish high school, I swear that I will chop down posts of my house.’ I want to show to him I will go higher than that and I also want other girls to go for that.”
But keeping up with school is not always easy. For girls like Keang, getting to school can be costly and involve a long journey on unreliable public transport. As a result, Keang explains, girls will sometime arrive late at school and might then be punished by school teachers employing corporal punishment or other means of publicly humiliation in front of fellow mates.
In spite of the challenges, Keang is determined and hates to see girls she knows quitting school;
“In my community, only one or two girls can manage to complete high school. The rest just give up their study when they reach grade 5 or 6. Consequently, they get married very early, they misbehave toward others, they enter forced labour…”
“…Rural and city girls have to go to school and have a dream. What make rural and city girls life different is enabling factors for us to pursue our dream. Many city girls can have full stomach when going to school, don’t have to care about farming, clean water access, health care service, good book to read, good teacher, near-by school, and more. Condition of many rural girls is opposite from this……. More than 50% of girls in my community are living in a hopeless condition for bright future.”
Keang has participated in Plan programmes as a ‘peer educator’ for the last 5 years. Shebelieves that her name, meaning ‘mobilise’ in English, explains her destiny as an advocate of children’s rights and her selection as a girl delegate to the 56th session of CSW in New York.