Story by Huong Nita | Training Manager | Heifer Cambodia
Photos by Tho Deoun | Volunteer | Heifer International
Edited by Uy Chanthon | Senior Program Manager | Heifer Cambodia
Heifer Cambodia has been working actively to empower women through leadership. Project participant Reoun Theourk, 31, was unable to finish her education because of her family's poor living conditions, but in 2011 was selected to be a Literacy Facilitator (LF).
She began teaching literacy classes for women's groups through the Heifer-funded Community Empowerment and Environmental Protection Surrounding Tonle Sap Lake project in partnership with the Disability Development Services Program (DDSP) in Pursat province.
"I have very little education background because I dropped school at grade six. Besides education, I did not know how to improve my life, my family and my community members in the village," Theoruk explained. "My mother passed away and left me with my father. Most of the time, I was left to do things for myself without knowing what was right and wrong. Nobody taught me to be a good person. I was struggling to support myself and my ailing father."
Since becoming an Literacy Facilitator, Theourk has attended the Values-Based Literacy Class, learned from other project participants, and received several trainings from Heifer Cambodia, enabling her to organize a literacy class for her village.
"With her commitment and accountability to her job, Theourk can do her work very well," said Pounk Phalline, a project coordinator for DDSP.
"Because of Heifer's 12 Cornerstones (for Just and Sustainable Development) I can change my life," said Theourk. "In the past, nobody in the village wanted to talk to me because of my ignorance and unacceptable behavior. I was an aggressive person, but when I had the chance to attend several trainings, especially the 12 Cornerstones and animal raising trainings, I realized that I gained more knowledge and skills and know how important it is to care for others. I could better manage my anger. Now people in my village acknowledge me and support me, and for that, they selected me to be a village chief."
Theourk's efforts, and her husband's support, have helped her family gain a better life and generate more income through raising animals and gardening. Many villagers have also learned from her family's example.
"I have tried my best to become a Literacy Facilitator and now I am a village chief of Talo Commune, Pursat Province," she said. "With my low education, I never thought of what I am doing today; now I can make it. I am profoundly grateful to DDSP and Heifer Cambodia for helping me become a good and useful person."
As a female chief in her village, Theourk specifically plans to educate women, beginning with Heifer's 12 Cornerstones. "I think that empowering women through development may not solve the entire world's problems, but it will help women to exercise their rights and become self-reliant. It is interesting to see what will happen to my village when more women can transform their lives progressively like me."