600 million girls are living in the developing world. Two-thirds of the world's uneducated children are girls, and two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults are women. Around the world, girls and women continue to suffer from a lack of economic opportunity, inadequate health care and education, early marriage, sexual violence, and discrimination.
Although there is increasing recognition of the role of women in the western part of the world, women across Asia - and this includes Cambodia - still face a wide range of issues regarding access to education, financial services, and equal promotion opportunities at the workplace. This despite the fact that numerous studies have demonstrated that girls' education yields some of the highest returns of all development investments and is one of the most effective strategies to ensure the well-being and health of children, and the long-term success of developing economies.
"Cambodian women represent 51 percent of the country’s population, yet their ability to participate as equal partners in social political and economic life is severely constrained," stated The Asia Foundation’s report. Instead the cultural norms construct the role of women as housewives and mothers, and in particular rural girls remain in their villages to help with the family, work in the fields, fishing or married off early. As a consequence, only 26% of girls are being able to join secondary education and even less go onto University.
Social attitudinal change is therefore needed. Gender disparity in education must be further reduced and women’s empowerment within the family and workplaces must be further promoted.
All changes that won’t happen within a day, or month or even years!
NGO2 is an acronym for "Nongovernmental Organization for the Next Generation Organization". Intending to support girls from grades 10 - 12 from rural villages who would otherwise fall through the cracks and not have the opportunity to further their education past primary school.
Sophal and his team personally select girls from the rural villages based on their previous school performance, display of leadership skills and attitude, and in case of parental consent move them from their rural homes to the dorms at Angkor High School, where they get the chance to continue their studies. At the dorm they are provided housing, food, uniforms, school supplies and mentorship through NGO2 alumni and local female business leaders.
As a way of giving-back to the community the girls are getting involved in social and eco responsible projects. The core project is the Eco Warrior project together with Pssbl, which they are all excited and very passionate for.
Education, Empowerment, Mentorship and Fellowship are all key foundations to reduce the gender gap in Cambodia and provide the necessary stability for families to escape poverty. To date 215 girls have been impacted by the support and continued education through NGO2. Many of them have gone onto jobs as police officers, nurses, business owners and professionals. And we are sure the 23 girls staying in the dorm at the moment, will follow in their footsteps!