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Samoeun is championing education for young girls in Cambodia

In rural Cambodia, girls and young women are often restricted from pursuing an education because of longstanding gender norms and expectations. Samoeun, 28-year-old, is working tirelessly to change this and encourage girls to chase their dreams.

Samoeun comes from a rural community in the Kratie Province and is part of the Mil ethnic group, a minority in the region. As a child, she dreamed of being a teacher, so she enrolled herself in a secondary school 80km from her home.

She lived with her older sister while attending the school, but when their mother became ill, Samoeun was forced to return home after the ninth grade.

Sameoun helps her mother sell fried banana in her spare time.

She was devastated to have to put her dreams of becoming a teacher on hold. She went to work,selling fried bananas at the local market. She had plans to move to the city and find a job as a garment worker to support her family. “If I couldn’t achieve my own study goals, I wanted my youngest sister to be able to study at a higher level than I could, so I needed to make money to support her,” she said.

Before she moved to the city, she saw an advertisement for ChildFund Cambodia’s program training preschool teachers in her neighbourhood. Naturally, she leapt at the opportunity. “I was chosen through a series of steps to take part in the training. I was so glad to be able to teach and earn money. I could make a living and care for my mother in my hometown.”

ChildFund supported Samoeun and 20 other volunteers with the necessary training so that they could become government-recognised teachers.

She encourages her peers in the Mil ethnic group to send their daughters to school and support them in achieving a higher level of education. She said that this starts with preschool.

“Previously, people did not appreciate preschool. With the help of ChildFund, we ran several campaigns to educate parents about the value of preschool for their children,” said Samoeun.

ChildFund also built a new preschool in her community. Now, more parents are sending their children to preschool.

Fiver-year-old Yuri enjoys her classes.

One mother in the community, Sreypov said: “I am delighted to see my children learn and grow while attending preschool, and it means I can do other duties while my children are in school. I am happy to see the new pre-school building and so is my daughter.”

“I feel like I’m having a lot of fun and learning new things from my new teacher,” said five-year-old Yuri.

Samoeun’s effort over the years has meant that there has been a significant uptick in girls going onto higher education. “You can’t underestimate your children, you have let them to fly like a bird,” she said.

Samoeun smiled talking about what she has accomplished. “I never imagined I’d be able to achieve what I have.”

ChildFund is working with local organisations to train preschool teachers and build the necessary facilities so children can access preschool education in rural parts of Cambodia.

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