How a Cambodian HeForShe advocate puts education at the forefront

Lyhour Mourn is a 19 year-old HeForShe advocate from Battambang Province, west in Cambodia. From a family background with limited resources, he has had to work hard to succeed. “My struggle is nothing compared to my sister”.

Date: Friday, September 2, 2016

Author: Mariken Harbitz

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During the panel debate at the HeForShe Launch, Lyhour highlighted the importance of equal access to education. Photo: UN Women/Mariken Harbitz

“Since early years, my own education has always been prioritized in the family,” said Lyhour. Originally from the Ratana Mondul District of Cambodia, he comes from a poor family that sells fruits on the street for a living. From an early age, Lyhour´s older sister was not allowed to attend school because their parents wanted her to stay home to help with household shores.

“It felt wrong that my sister was not given the same opportunities as me.”

As part of a new generation paving way for equality in society, Lyhour has seen first hand the importance of education. “I had to convince my father. I had to explain to him how my sister going to school would benefit us all. But it was not easy, coming from a poor family where there isn’t enough money for education,” said Lyhour.

To change his father’s mind, he later committed to financially supporting his sister if she was to study. “I am working two shifts a day in an ice factory in addition to my classes at university. Almost all of my money goes to support my sister´s schooling. But I have to do this, because my family, my community and society will not reach our true potential if girls don’t have access to education,” said Lyhour.

Lyhour´s sister is currently studying nursery in Battambang, and she recently received a scholarship for her remarkable efforts. “My sister is incredibly smart,” said Lyhour very proudly. “Probably (she is) smarter than me,” he laughed.

Gender disparity still persists in schools in Cambodia, with 35 per cent of women enrolled in higher education. “Without the participation of women, the development of our society will be slow. Youth have a huge role in promoting this vision of a shared reality,” said the young HeForShe advocate.