Crossposted from UN Women.
I sold my gold earrings to pay for the first year of university in Phnom Penh.
I come from a farmer’s family in rural Cambodia. Most of my friends stopped going to school at age 11. Only a handful of us made it to high school. One of my teachers said: ‘You shouldn’t study. You will always be busy with house chores.’
School was difficult, we had to work hard, and everyone in the village kept discouraging me. But it had the opposite effect; it motivated me to pursue education and to aim higher.
I was 17 when I came to Phnom Penh to study. I would study in the evening and work with youth during the weekends. Seeing their motivation and spirit to change the world made me realize that I wanted to work on youth empowerment.
People still tell me to find a husband instead of pursuing education or working with youth. I’ve been told that no single man would ever marry me. These experiences reaffirm the importance of empowering young women to challenge gender stereotypes and reach their full potential. If young women don’t support one another, how will we move forward?”
Sinet Seap, 31, is a youth activist from Kandal Province, Cambodia. She has worked with the civil society organization Youth Resource Development Programme nd UN Women Cambodia on engaging youth, particularly young women. Recently, Ms. Seap has been awarded the Australia Award to complete her Master’s degree in gender studies, and has also been selected by the prestigious Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. Her efforts contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goal 4, which ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, and stresses on removing gender disparities in education; as well as SDG 5, which calls for gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly recognizes the role of youth as an important enabler for development and women’s empowerment.
Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.