Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Cambodia holds the 93rd spot in gender inequality rankings of 149 countries listed in 2018, according to the United Nations.
Despite the breathtaking beauty of its natural environment and its awe-inspiring temples that attract tourists from all corners of the earth, Cambodia struggles to provide women with equality - economically, politically and socially. This vivacious country holds the 93rd spot in gender inequality rankings of 149 countries listed in 2018, according to the United Nations.
The McKinsey Global Institute reported that closing this gender gap could potentially add around $12 trillion to the world economy by 2025. Clearly, diminishing this gender gap is beneficial to everyone. So why do women in Cambodia still face such strong inequality?
The root of the issue lies in the education system in Cambodia, or rather lack thereof, which limits many young girls from receiving the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Boys and girls generally begin their education on equal footing, but the dropout rate for girls increases dramatically once they get to secondary level schooling (grades 7-9). This is due to various factors such as traditional parents, the distance of the school, the lack of sanitary bathrooms and the low level of female teachers in schools.
Cambodian traditions often places women in the homemaker stereotype. Women are seen as belonging in the house - doing chores, raising children and taking care of the household tasks. Parents feel that it is more important for their sons to receive better educations than their daughters because their sons are seen as more capable of finding work, which means more money will be brought in to help support the family.
If a family can only afford for one or a few of their children to attend school, they will usually pick the boys first. This is a cost benefit analysis on the parents’ part - as they know that their sons are much more likely to find better paying jobs because of the prevalent gender gap is in the workplace. And the cycle continues.
Another issue that stops girls from receiving an education is simply the location of schools. In rural areas, schools can be far from home, which makes it difficult for students to get to school. And since security is virtually non-existent in rural areas, if girls do decide to walk the distance every day, they often do so at the risk of being raped or attacked on their way.
At many Cambodian schools, there is a lack of female teachers, another discouraging factor for girls, and also a lack of good teachers. Staff at schools are often underpaid and work multiple other jobs to support themselves.
This means that teachers are not always focused on providing their students with the best education. Teachers in Cambodia do not always have the same level of background knowledge and schooling themselves that teachers in other countries have, which adds to the fact that even attending school won’t do much for expanding Cambodian kids’ future opportunities. Locally educated students, and especially girls, do not receive the schooling needed to develop the skills necessary to be competitive in today’s job market.
Not having financial resources is probably the main reason why girls do not attend school. Although public school in Cambodia is free, there are often unofficial fees that schools and teachers will make students pay, which are often too expensive for many families.
As a consequence of being uneducated, girls will often fall into human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced labor, child marriage or other similar paths.
Reforming the education system in Cambodia - adding more life skills courses and overall improving the quality of education - is the key to empowering young women to create better opportunities for themselves. Access to quality education is and always has been one of the major driving forces behind a prosperous society.
Education opportunities give individuals a chance to expand their knowledge of themselves and the world while simultaneously opens more and more doors of opportunity. It may not be the only key to a thriving country, but it is the key to solving gender inequality.
Women Going Beyond is an NGO created with the goal to empower young women by teaching them English, computer and technology skills, and other business/entrepreneurship related courses in the rural areas of South East Asia.
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