Like so many girls living in rural poverty in Cambodia, Wattana was forced to leave school in grade six to help support the nine people in her family. To make money, she cut wood for a pittance in a nearby forest. Wattana always knew she was capable of much more. So, when she heard that a Plan partner in a nearby town offered restaurant and tourism training, she decided it was precisely the opportunity she needed.
The course provided young people like her with hands-on training in restaurant and housekeeping services, and included office and English skills to help them get jobs in the Sala Bai tourist industry. However, the training involved an intensive, 12-month course away from home, and her mother believed this to be inappropriate, given Wattana’s gender. She thought her daughter should remain in the village like the other girls, cutting wood and getting married and raising children.
But Wattana was determined. She gathered more information about the course and continued trying to persuade her mother. In the face of her daughter’s fierce determination, Wattana’s mother eventually gave her permission to sit the entrance examination. And Wattana passed! Armed with a scholarship to study her favourite subject – cooking – Wattana left the village and went to Sala Bai.
Today, aged seventeen, Wattana has achieved her dream of working in a restaurant. She has become a different person now that she holds a job and her whole family shares in her success.
Wattana sends money home that allows her younger siblings to attend school more easily, including a brother who has continued to Junior High School, all thanks to his sister’s education. Wattana is living proof that investing in girls is the key to reducing poverty.
Wattana’s mother is now immensely proud of her daughter, saying the family no longer has to struggle to make ends meet. “I am very happy that Wattana has a job. It is unbelievable that my family condition can change like this.” Wattana herself smiles a little shyly and says, “Yes, I am very proud of myself that I was given opportunity to learn cooking skills. With it I can earn money and support my family back in the village.”
Wattana is the one. She is changing the world for herself and for those around her. Because she is a girl.
Give SAMA a High-5 – $5 might not sound much, but it can go a long way
Gender inequality remains a massive issue, particularly in education. This is one of the reasons why Intrepid has been spurred into action and joined forces with Plan to set up SAMA, a 3-year global gender equality project that aims to improve the lives of communities and help bridge the gender gap through education.
Photo: Wattana in Cambodia. © Plan