Len is one of thousands of young women pressured to leave school early and take on domestic work to support their families in Cambodia. Many more are faced with early marriage and unable to take on opportunities like work and independence. Through a Plan International project, young people, particularly women, are able to access skills training, and paid internship placements to kick start their careers. This opportunity can be the difference between a life of poverty, and one of earning, and dignity.
Len didn’t have an easy childhood. She had a stop-and-start relationship with school, never being able to complete a year. Eventually at 14, she dropped out all-together to help her family earn money doing hard labour in the rice field. She was up at 5am, working 12-hour days, all for around $1 a day. Life only got harder as she got older, and her father’s drinking habit became worse. She was terrified when he drank, and often hid at her neighbour’s home until he sobered up. “Sometimes my family didn’t have enough food to eat, and very little money. It was a difficult time for me, and it made me feel really stressed. Also, my father would get drunk and scream and shout, and this was a terrible time for me,” she explains. The violence escalated, and forced Len to look for a place safer than her own home. “I think my life can be difficult because I am a female. As a female, you are more vulnerable to abuse and violence.”