Football challenges gender stereotypes in Cambodia

Khan Ratha*, a 14-year old student in Cambodia, is challenging gender stereotypes through sport. Ratha never imagined herself playing football until she saw all her friends doing it and decided whatever the boys can do, she can do too. Now, two years later, she trains twice a week and dreams not only of winning the local league but also of becoming a qualified football coach.

Ratha grew up in a rural area in Prey Veng province with her six siblings. Despite attending school up until grade 6 in her hometown, her family felt that her education was substandard and she was not learning enough. In 2014, Ratha moved to Phnom Penh with her older sisters in the hope of attaining a better education. Her sisters found work in the city and Ratha enrolled in Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) as a grade 2 student at the age of 12. ISF’s intensive catch-up Education Programme got her up to speed quickly and in 2016 she enrolled as a grade 6 student in state school. Around the same time, she learned of ISF’s Football Programme. She went along to her first training just because her friends encouraged her but it was not long before she developed a passion for the game.

Ratha describes her training sessions and participation in the AIA-ISF Youth League as helping her to define her passions and her goals in life, as well as developing discipline, focus and resilience. “I like competing in the league because it motivates our team to train hard; winning the championship for ISF is our dream” she adds. “Through the league, I have experienced winning and losing, pride, joy and disappointment”. When we win we are overjoyed because we have worked hard to win but losing is sometimes equally as important becau