The Global G.L.O.W. and LitWorld teams recently visited girls and partners in Cambodia and Thailand, where the HerStory Campaign expanded its literacy and mentorship programs last year. It was an inspiring week of mentor trainings, art workshops, storytelling, community building and bonding between the HerStory team, the local girls and mentors, and our community-based partner organizations—World Assistance for Cambodia and Friends of Thai Daughters. We were overjoyed to witness firsthand the positive impact HerStory is having on the young women in these challenging communities.
“Girls often lack access to education, are vulnerable to violence, and seldom have the right to choose their own direction in life.”
Women face many social issues in Southeast Asia, particularly in rural areas. Girls often lack access to education, are vulnerable to violence, and seldom have the right to choose their own direction in life. Young girls are often pressured into supporting family incomes, limiting their potential and their access to education. Long before they are even able to articulate their dreams, they are deprived of them. The HerStory Campaign aims to provide a space for girls to develop a strong sense of self, and with supportive mentors as guides, find the words—written and spoken—to express their goals and identity.
HerStory programs are already underway in four rural schools in Cambodia. For one week each month, mentors make the long, bumpy journey to each school, having to use the combined transportation of buses, their motorbikes and tuk tuks. In Thailand, mentors visit girls living in a group home once a week to lead the LitClub program. Mentors undergo extensive training to lead classrooms of girls in HerStory songs, community building, literacy and art activities that boost girls’ confidence and future outlook. These classes, known as LitClubs, end with the group sharing words of mutual positive reinforcement.
We got to know Bebe, one of the HerStory mentors in Cambodia particularly well. She told us that she is amazed at the transformation she has witnessed since HerStory launched nearly one year ago. “At first, they were shy and withdrawn, seldom answering anything even if they knew the answers. Lack of information and low motivation from families and friends left them unfocused and uninterested in thinking about their futures.” Over time, Bebe has seen great development. “The girls have gradually become less shy once they learn the habit of sharing stories. They grow in bravery to face problems, and they find trust and support with one another. This ultimately changes their outer and inner points of view.”
“The impact of dynamic mentoring and transformational literacy is igniting the power of girls in Cambodia.”
Global G.L.O.W. Founder Kylie Schuyler has also witnessed the change. “The impact of dynamic mentoring and transformational literacy is igniting the power of girls in Cambodia. We are seeing true systemic change occurring as families and communities change in reaction to girls’ authentic voices,” she says. When we asked sixteen-year-old Pond Lika, a ninth-grader at Doris Dillon School, how HerStory has impacted her she shared, “Before joining, I was always shy to talk to people, even classmates or my parents. I wasn’t a good student. But now, I study hard, feel brave, and can answer questions in class.” Lika finds the positivity extends to her home too. “I think I’m also more able to help my parents now,” she says.
“It has changed not just the students, but also the older generation’s attitudes toward their girls.”
Doris Dillon principal Mey Choeurn agrees. “Parents who had thought to send their girls to factory jobs this year actually decided to instead send them to this program. It has changed not just the students, but also the older generation’s attitudes toward their girls,” she says.
We have noticed similar transformations across all 26 countries where the HerStory Campaign runs programs in partnership with 52 on-the-ground partner organizations. The Campaign supports girls and young women in growing into confident leaders in their family, classroom and community; empowered with self-understanding and ready to take on more self-directed social roles.
To see the HerStory Campaign in action please watch this short video from our recent trip to Cambodia.