Women make a huge contribution to communities around the world, yet gender inequality remains one of our planet’s most pressing issues. Intrepid has joined the fight for gender equality and this is the first in a series of stories that feature inspirational Intrepid women. Introducing Sreykloeng Ouk, Chief Accountant in Intrepid’s Siem Reap office…
“I was born in 1983, after the notorious Pol Pot Regime. Between 1979-1989 there was civil war in Cambodia, with Government and Vietnamese troops trying to bring things under control and many areas still home to Khmer Rouge troops. There was poverty everywhere and many Cambodians lived in refugee camps along the border between Thailand and Cambodia. My family was one of them.
At that time I was too young for school, but my parents wanted me to have good opportunities and taught me what they could at home. We left the refugee camp with virtually nothing. I had three sisters and two brothers (I am the fourth child). Most of our relatives had died in the Pol Pot Regime. So my parents focused on trying to make business to feed us all while my oldest sister, who wasn’t much more than a child, looked after us. She never had the opportunity to go to school.
Luckily in 1991 the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established in a comprehensive peace settlement, and my father was able to find a job. Afterwards we moved to live in the capital city, Phnom Penh. These days were not like the current Cambodia. There were no books, internet, supermarkets, CDs or television. Everywhere had been affected by war, and our country still had a long way to go to clear landmines and repair roads, buildings and bridges. Most of the time we stayed in our homes.
By 1997 I was in class 9 (high school) when a ‘cold war’ between political parties was fought in our country. I wasn’t able to go to school for a while. Even at this time with one parent supporting the whole family we had few clothes and it was hard to access books and stationery.
After I graduated from high school, my father took me to register at a church supported organisation called Donbosco, to develop administration skills to work in the office. I learnt type writing, computer skills, English and we also studied the bible. After that he sent me to train with his old boss who was a foreigner.
After seeing me apply myself well, my father registered me in University. For me, I never felt I knew what to learn, he set up my life and I just followed. But I saw my father was getting tired from years of hard work and I decided to study at night time and work in the day time to try and help. During this time I worked half day in the morning with an internship at an organisation, in the afternoon I worked at computer school, where I got to learn computer skills and practice speaking English with foreigners for free. In the middle of my 3-year University Bachelor degree I got a full time job and salary to support myself and share with my family. At this time I was around 21-22 years old.
After I finished my Bachelors degree my father still pushed me to continue my study with a master’s degree. And that’s the story of how I came to be a real Accountant working with Intrepid Travel in Cambodia.”
You can join the fight against gender inequality by supporting SAMA – Intrepid’s global gender equality project that aims to improve the lives of communities and help bridge the gender gap through education.
Photo: Sreykloeng Ouk with her family