The Aspire program is focussed on educating girls in to the future. Aspire program places a focus on increasing educational, social, creative and sporting opportunities for girls. We want girls to aspire to be their very best self.
At One Family At A Time we aim to align our work with international and Cambodian evidence and focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
International Context and the Evidence:The UNDP (the United Nations’ Development Agency) state that “Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education.”
The UNDP also state “Ending all discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, it’s crucial for sustainable future; it’s proven that empowering women and girls helps economic growth and development.”
The Cambodian Context for Girls and Education:The Cambodian government sees education as a key to achieving its long-term vision for the country. It is focused on political stability, long-term economic growth, sustainable development, improved living standards and reduced poverty. It has identified girls’ education in Cambodia in particular as an important step in reaching these goals.
Cambodia has made improvements in offering equal access to education for boys and girls, however gender disparity still exists, as it does in many countries. If a Cambodian girl has aspirations of getting an advanced education or entering the workforce, her dream is more likely than that of boys, to be dashed due to poverty, cultural norms and lack of access to schools, especially in in rural areas.
Data collected by various international organisations and the Cambodian Ministry of Education shows that boys and girls in Cambodia start primary education at fairly equal rates. However, reports show that the dropout rate for female students increases with each grade and that the enrolment rates for female students is significantly lower than that of their male peers in both the lower and upper secondary levels. By upper secondary school, only 11% of students are female.
Girls’ education in Cambodia is compromised because of widespread post-colonial and post-conflict poverty; Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. According to the Asian Development Bank, 72 percent of the population lives on less than $3 per day. Children living in rural areas are more than likely from poor families; therefore, they will struggle to obtain an education. However, education is the most strongly evidenced mechanism by which poverty can be sustainably disrupted. Poverty is interlinked with the issue of girls’ education in Cambodia, as many poor parents will prioritize their son’s education over their daughter’s.
Cultural norms in Cambodia confine many of these girls to a life of domestic duties, such as housework, cooking and caring for their siblings. Cambodian girls do not have the same opportunities as Cambodian boys.
According to Borgen Magazine in 2018, 30% of female sex workers were aged under 18 and had little or no education.
Aspire – Supporting Girls Through EducationThe Aspire program commenced in 2017, in partnership with Duon Sva Secondary School. 20 students (15 girls and 5 boys) were selected by the school staff to be enrolled in our English class program. These students all lived in Duon Sva or neighbouring villages and came from families who held a commitment to the education of their children despite not necessarily having the means to do so.
The Aspire program is focused on educating girls into the future and focusses on increasing opportunities for educational, social, creative, mental and physical health and wellbeing for girls. We want girls to ASPIRE to be their very best self and have access to the means and opportunities to achieve their aspirations.
While the program has an emphatic and unapologetic commitment to girls, we also recognize that education for boys is also vital in any community. We aim to work towards gender equality though our work and we have been so privileged to meet and really get to know these 20 incredible young people.
In early 2021 we were delighted to announce that 100% of the Aspire students had passed their Grade 9 exams AND that 100% of these students were enrolled to commence Grade 10.
In the context of COVID-19-related rural household income reduction, the educational achievements of these students are all the more remarkable.
Since the program initially began with these 20 students being supported through English classes and Rice Scholarships, it has continued to develop into a more holistic approach and now incorporates many aspects such as:
The Future for Aspire – Supporting Girls Through EducationWe are committed to supporting these 20 young people through to Grade 12 and very much hope to be in a position to support them to access university or vocational training, in a domain of their choosing.
We are currently exploring models for sustainability and growth of this model and invite feedback, support and networking connections to assist us to do this.