Women with Her Confidence
Being born in one of the Southeast Asian countries, Cambodia, I have inevitably experienced and witnessed gender inequality existed since the past and firmly embedded in our traditions and cultures. To be honest, I considered myself as lucky that I had very supportive parents. I was mentored well my term concerning education, and they sent me to school and encouraged me undoubtedly from kindergarten to college. When my mother got really sick and passed away of cancer a year ago, I, for the first time, was challenged in term of education. I was told to quit my college temporarily to take care of my mother and later to take care of my family since I am the oldest daughter. And again, I was blessed to have the most supportive father. He acted as a shield to protect me from those challenges, and here I am, still in college pursuing my degree.
What I want to reflect here based on my experience is family’s support is one of the most important elements that can steer girls’ lives in my community. Where I live, children are supposed to live with their families and not allowed to move out until they get married, especially girls. Therefore, I think the greatest challenge girls confront in my community in order to access education is lack of family’s support. I know there are many challenges out there too, and people must have questioned me regarding poverty as the challenge that might be greater than the one I just raised. However, from what I’ve seen, some girls are discouraged by their families to further their studies even though some of them were born rich families.
Considered lacking of family’s support is one of the biggest barriers, there are still other challenging barriers in my community that prevent young women from accessing education. Visibly, cultural biases are one of the barriers. Like I mentioned earlier, Cambodia has the default cultural biases since the past and it turned out to be not fair for women. Women are expected to stay home and do good housework when they are single, and to be good and loyal housewives once they’re married. People says “women don’t have to study much for they will be raised (or in more polite word: supported) by their husbands”. This concept has been practiced for hundreds of year and it still exists today. Because of such biases, lack of respect of women emerges automatically. So, women follow what they were told: “no need to study, your husband will support you.” Consequently, once a family come to an argument, it’s woman who was blamed by her husband. She was blamed of not going to work and staying home doing nothing. Woman has never been valued by countless amount of housework she does. All of these problems make women become lack of confidence. For some, they strive to gain it back, and some don’t, sadly.
Though I was not challenged much by these barriers compared to many women out there, I experienced some impacts. As I already said, it was my relatives (some) who still don’t value my studying effort and keep saying I should only learn how to be a good housewife (I do want to be a good housewife, but to become one, I need to be educated, right?). I overcame this impact by protect my point of view and of course, with my father’s support.
In a nutshell, what I am trying to say here is confidence is a crucial component for us, women, to fight for our futures and create our own destinies. It has to be planted and showered from the inside. Most importantly, it is worth noting that being confidence is different from being over pride. Once women have strong confidence to fight for their stands, they will be able to overcome most of the barriers such as cultural biases and lack of respects on us! However, as I repeat again and again, support from family is still very important for women. In order to get such support, we, women need to be able to explain them of why we need their supports. As for economic constraints, this is a tough one to overcome alone; however, it is possible to still get an education once women are supported by their families to do so. Women have to be hungry for education, try their best, and put in their all to get education. Most important of all, women have to have hopes and remember that once they seek, there are many people out there ready to support you, if not financially, mentally. Last but not least, do keep in mind that everything that we, women, have encountered is not designed by god, but man-made; therefore, it is up to us to get rid of it. I strongly believe so.