Young woman defies poverty, gender stereotypes to train as electrician

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Ms Ratha enrolled in an electrician course at Phum Pheak Dejo Sen Institute. KT/Srey Kumneth

Siem Reap native Khoun Ratha worked hard to ensure that she graduated from high school. Although her parents were quite poor, they never thought of allowing their children to leave school. To the contrary, they gave their kids extra encouragement.

Ms Ratha, 18, now enrolled in an electrician course at Phum Pheak Decho Sen Institute with support from PLAN International Cambodia, recalled that in the past she had to ride a bicycle more than 10km a day to her secondary school. It took her more than an hour each way.

“When I got to high school, the distance was 20km. Therefore, my mum asked a family if I could live with them. I sometimes felt ashamed and was not able to do all of their housework. Also, I was lonely being away from my family, but I had to do it because it was my only chance,” Ms Ratha said.

She said her parents constantly reminded her that without an education, she would have to support herself by working in the rice fields. It was a big motivation for her to move on and keep studying until she graduated. And she reminded herself that an education would allow her to earn money to support her family, including helping her younger brother get an education.

KT/Srey Kumneth

“Once I graduated, I had no money to continue. Luckily, Krousar Yoeung [an NGO] brought me some information about training from Plan International Cambodia. They were offering training in many skills, but I chose to the electrician training, as it had been a dream of mine since I was young,” Ms Ratha said.

She said the first month of studying was difficult, but she paid careful attention to her instructors, and made a point of seeking training opportunities. She was the only woman in the group, she said.

Ms Ratha added that, “Normally, learning this trade requires six months; four months of study and two months of practical training. But not for me; I studied only four months before being selected by a teacher to work as an apprentice electrician at Angkor Era Company.”

Ms Ratha wants to earn a degree from Decho Sen Phum Pheak. Although her parents are not able to support her, she aims to work hard and save money to chase her dream. She believes that girls are capable of learning such skills, if they are willing to put in the effort.

Ms Ratha was particularly grateful to Plan International Cambodia for giving her a chance at a new life by allowing her to train to be an electrician. She added that she was grateful to her parents for always supporting her and standing behind her.

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