International Day of the Girl – Every Girl Counts

October 11th was International Day of the Girl, a day to celebrate the great achievements and potential of girls everywhere. At ISF, we see the courage and strength of girls every day and their dedication never ceases to inspire us.

Cambodian girls have to face and overcome innumerable barriers. According to the surveys we conducted in our communities, parents usually prioritize their sons’ education and consequently daughters have limited education and work opportunities and can face high levels of physical and sexual violence. Furthermore, cultural traditions and stereotypes favour men over women, perpetuating discrimination and social exclusion. Although these disparities that affect girls and women are a significant obstacle to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), ISF is working tirelessly to give its own contribution to the achievement of the fourth and fifth SDGs:  quality education and gender equality.

Through its Education programme, ISF ensures that girls and boys have equitable access to education. Over 550 young people are supported and 50% of students are female. In order to change traditional socio-cultural norms involving gender, we believe that engaging men and boys in efforts to reduce discrimination against women is important. We regularly organize workshops in our communities and extra activities for our students at ISF Education Centres which promote gender equity and improve understanding, communication and cooperation between men, women, girls and boys.

ISF has made significant progress in reducing inequities not only through access to education, but also through football! Worldwide, girls are less likely than boys to participate in football and sport, which continue to be dominated by males. However, our local research demonstrates there is significant will and  interest from girls but that poverty, domestic expectations, cultural traditions and stereotypes prevent their participation. For girls to play football in Cambodia is to challenge nearly everything it means to be a woman. Cambodian girls are supposed to be reserved and obedient and are as likely as boys to adhere to gender stereotypes. When interviewed, *Raksmey, one of our football players, confirmed: “At first I thought I couldn’t play football. I thought I was weak and that it wasn’t appropriate for a girl. What would my family and friends think about me? I was so wrong…”.  Today, Raksmey plays on the U14 Girls team in weekly coaching and when the league season begins in November, she’ll be back to competing with girls just like her, who are challenging stereotypes at