Chhoun La is a 16-year-old girl who lives in Prey Veng Province, Cambodia. Though she is young, Chhoun has faced many hardships. In school, Chhoun lagged behind her classmates because she was tasked with many household chores, including caring for her family’s cattle. On top of that, it was well-known in her community that her parents often fought. Chhoun was upset and ashamed by the violence in her family. Eventually, Chhoun dropped out of school to work and contribute to the household income. She was in third grade.
Four years after leaving school, Chhoun still had the desire to read, write, and find a way to resolve the violence in her home. At this time, she heard about a basic literacy class in her village. This class was supported by Youth on the Move, a World Education initiative developed in collaboration with the Provincial Office of Education. In Cambodia, Youth on the Move equips girls with foundational skills (literacy and numeracy) and life skills in order to reduce their vulnerability.
World Education works in Prey Veng because Chhoun and many other girls in this province are unable to attend school. Their barriers to access include unaffordable school fees, a long commute from their homes, and being pulled out of school in order to work. Because of these circumstances, many girls cannot acquire literacy, numeracy, and life skills training—critical tools that would help them protect themselves from the dangers of migration, exploitation, trafficking, and the consequences of not being able to find productive work.
With encouragement from her village leader and the initiative’s literacy facilitator, Chhoun enrolled in the class. In addition to basic literacy, the class also included a “post-literacy” period during which she and her classmates formed an income generation group. Together, they learned how to make a profit from growing and selling vegetables and pickles. Through Youth on the Move, Chhoun also connected with the Commune Youth Group, where she participated in youth forums and campaigns against child labor, trafficking, and domestic violence.
Since then, Chhoun has improved her ability to read, write, and generate an income. In addition to these life-changing skills, she is now also able to speak in a confident and informed manner about topics such as domestic violence. Her personal development enabled her to address her family’s domestic violence problem and her parents’ fighting has greatly diminished since her courageous confrontation. Chhoun also asked her parents if she could go back to school, and they agreed. In Chhoun’s case, Youth on the Move has helped her bring peace to her home and shape positive attitudes towards the value of girls’ education.