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Combating gender discrimination in Cambodia with education and child care

Project Overview

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Project Start Date
Fall 2018

Construct a childcare facility that will provide children with early childhood education while enabling more women to benefit from workshops and critical support services.

Provide a mentorship program and educational support to keep children from remote communities on track for school success.

Support an after-school community center in Pong Ro to provide supplemental education for children in rural villages as well as a variety of healthcare initiatives.

Country Context
A third of Cambodia’s total population lives on less than $2 dollar a day, and as a country, it continues to struggle to establish economic prosperity, governmental transparency, and gender equality

Partner Projects

Creating a childcare center

The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) provides critical institutional support services for women who require assistance due to issues of sexual and gender-based violence, gender discrimination, and restricted access to education. WECO partnered with the WRC in 2018 to build the Krousar Sammaki Childcare Center to enable the WRC to expand their services and reach more families, as well as prepare the next generation through an early education childcare program. Currently the center supports 180 children and is used for family programing, early childhood education, and positive parenting workshops that provide knowledge and skills on parenting roles, effective communication, and positive discipline within households. Equipped with the center, the WRC is also able to offer more in-house workshops and counseling to women in the area. 

Building educational pathways

In Cambodia, less than 5% of the rural population graduates high school. The Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) provides a comprehensive education program that supports students in remote areas by providing greater access to primary, secondary, and university schooling. WECO has been supporting the PLF since 2018, on educational programing for students living in remote areas, including the development of an alumni, mentorship, and career initiative as part of their program to provide holistic support for students. Currently 270 students are enrolled or have graduated from the PLF’s university cohort—65% of whom are girls. In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, WECO worked with the PLF on food security and emergency relief projects.

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Enhancing education in Pong Ro

WECO has been supporting a community center project in the rural village of Pong Ro since 2020. The center will provide a space for after school programing for 200+ children, a variety of healthcare initiatives, and adult education. Our local partner, Samuth Muon, began this project to address the lack of educational and medical facilities available for people living in extremely remote areas. With the impacts of COVID-19, WECO pivoted this project with the help of Samuth and his team to provide emergency food relief to families in Pong Ro and Ro Kayea villages. For 2023, WECO is funding two full-time teacher salaries for a full year of programing along with the construction of a front gate, as the school is alongside the village’s main road.

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The Path to Gender Equality

Violence against women and girls is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that enforce a woman’s importance as primarily mother and wife. A woman’s reputation and protection takes precedence over her access to education or employment, which means her mobility is highly restricted – especially in rural areas – due to both a fear of abuse and the lack of available support. Social services and support to survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence are not systematically provided, available, or accessible.

Gender stereotypes prevent women from expanding their opportunities and present long-term barriers for women who seek better lives. Available work is mainly concentrated in a few informal sectors with less social and economic value. Women and girls perform the majority of essential but unpaid domestic labor in households and communities, which prevents them from obtaining levels of education that would result in higher paid employment. Without educational and support services, Cambodian women will have severely limited life options as well as lower potential for economic autonomy.

For more information, please review the following reports on gender in Cambodia: Violence Against Women and Girls, Gender in Education and Vocational Training, and Gender Relations and Attitudes

Mental health and counseling are new concepts for Cambodian culture, and the social work sector in general in is extremely underfunded. Although policies and legislation exist that make violence against women illegal, there remains a gap between established laws and their actual implementation, especially in rural communities. These progressive laws are relatively new. In order to be effective in making gender equality a reality – not just a goal – they must be accompanied by widespread social attitude shifts.

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