My name is Sim Lida. I am 26 years old. I was born in a remote village of Srei Snam district, almost 100 kilometres from the world famous Angkor Wat temple of Siem Reap.
I have gone from a girl who stopped schooling at the age of 8 to the only person in my community who completed university and a fully qualified teacher educating secondary school children in my community.
I was asked why I needed higher education and warned against it because I had to travel far away from home for it and I might end up with nobody to marry. But I wondered, why is it okay for other young girls to migrate to Thailand to find work and it is not okay for me to travel to the city for my studies?
My message to girls
I am not giving up. I am overcoming the pressures on me and trying to prove to other girls that,
- They should not be defined by their ability to handle housework.
- They should not be deprived of schooling
- If we go to school now when we are young, can run an income generating business later in life. But if we sacrifice our childhood for business, it is not easy to go for schooling later in life.
I thank my parents for allowing me to pursue my dream despite the social pressure, and a field officer from Plan International Cambodia, Ms. Huon Sathea, whom I respect for giving me advice, especially when I was at secondary school.
I remember the day I cried asking my parents to allow me to go to Phnom Penh – the capital city of Cambodia, almost 500 kilometres away from my home – to apply for university. Ms. Huon Sathea assured my parents that I could stay with her family. She helped me all the way through, I finally arrived at Phnom Penh on the final day that the university were accepting applicants. I made it.
My education journey
Here I am, because of education, getting to know myself better and pursuing what I want. My education journey does not end there. These days, I have to catch a night bus on Fridays to come to Phnom Penh for my master’s classes during the weekends and return on Sunday evenings to my teaching during the working days at the higher secondary school at my home town.
I do no regret that I can’t save any of my monthly wage of 1,000,000 riels (€215), as I have to continue investing in my education and I am proud of what I am doing.
Here I am, because of education, getting to know myself better and pursuing what I want.
All my engagement with development activities inspires me to go further. I used to lead a children’s council at my school doing a lot of activities not only for the school but the whole community. My friends and I ran an evening English class when we had free time in order to practice our teaching and sharpen our knowledge of the language.
During my university life until now, I have been part of various women’s leadership networks. My friends and I initiated experience exchanges, community homestay, and we engaged my students, children and youth in my community.
Encouraging girls to dream
I am always very passionate about encouraging girls to dream and to realise them. I hope to continue running sessions to help girls know themselves better, recognise their potential and follow their dreams.
The biggest challenge most young girls in remote communities like mine are facing is that they do not know what they want. They have not been trained to shape their dreams.
I am enthusiastic to work with those in grades 11 and 12 at higher secondary school. Visiting universities, successful businesses and other institutions beyond our community will help them shape their dreams. Knowledge on career planning, financial management, leadership, project management and the like will give them the means to achieve their dreams.