Since Cambodia’s horrific genocide in the mid 1970’s, which targeted the educated class and decimated 13-30% of its population, its education system has struggled to return to a normal state. Education is highly plagued by corruption and bribery. Tertiary education opportunities favor those in the elite class.

Why Cambodia?

Education System Holds Women Back

The country suffers especially from gender prejudice in tertiary education as only one third of Cambodian college students are women. While improvements have been noted, especially with the support of the Minister of Education Hang Chuoun Naron, Cambodian universities have been largely untouched by these efforts. In addition, Cambodian students, especially female students, are severely under-represented on U.S. college campuses with only 500 students studying in the United States in 2018. As a result, Cambodian women lack opportunities to reach leadership positions and the country is set on a track to continue to promote mostly upper class males as its future leaders. 

Women are Underrepresented in Leadership Positions at all Levels

Cambodian culture is highly suppressive of young women’s aspirations as many parents and the culture overall discourage careers, insist on arranging marriages and reward girls throughout their childhood for being humble and shy. Compounding this is the fact that there are few inspiring role models that are women. Women are highly underrepresented in leadership positions and gender inequality remains a persistent issue throughout all levels of government and private sector leadership positions.

SHE-CAN Creates a Pathway to Tertiary Education Opportunities

SHE-CAN has observed a missing quality in young Cambodian girls’ education: leadership. Several organizations are seeking to address Cambodia’s lack of a strong education system by providing high-level primary and secondary education opportunities to low-income students showing exceptional promise such as the Cambodian Children’s Fund, The Liger Foundation, and the U.S. Embassy’s Education USA program. However, few programs exist to help their beneficiaries attain superior tertiary level education. SHE-CAN is capitalizing on this investment by creating a pathway for the best and brightest young women to gain world-class education in the U.S.

​Our Scholars will become Role Models who Challenge Gender Barriers 

This stifling culture handicaps the progress of girls aiming to develop critical thinking or leadership skills and puts a ceiling on Cambodian girls’ dreams. Without a concerted effort to encourage girls to be leaders and educate them at the college level, there will never be an impactful proportion of women in leadership positions. SHE-CAN hopes to create a steady stream of well-educated, empowered and well-connected women leaders returning home each year so they can bring women’s leadership to the country and become role models who inspire young women to challenge the country’s centuries-old gender barriers.

Cambodian SHE-CAN scholars Chamnan (left), Sinet, Sreynich, Rosie, & Mouy (right)