“Girlhood Around the World” is a special, 10-week series from The Lily. For the past 10 weeks, we have offered a glimpse into the world of a girl in a different country.
Today’s diary entries come from Chanleakna and Monita, two girls who live in different parts of Phnom Penh, the bustling capital of Cambodia. While Monita and Chanleakna have grown up in different sets of circumstances, both are in school, live with their families and have big dreams for their futures.
In recent years, one of the biggest issues making headlines and defining the experience of many teenage girls in Cambodia has been a rise in teenage pregnancy. About 1 in 8 girls in the country ages 15 to 19 has already become a mother or was currently pregnant with her first child, according to United Nations Population Fund data analyzing the sexual health of young people in Cambodia between 2000 and 2014. According to a recent report by Save the Children, teenage pregnancies have increased by 50 percent in Cambodia over the last four years, and there has been a similar rise in the number of child marriages in the country.
Chanleakna is a 16-year-old girl who lives in Phnom Penh with her mother, grandmother, aunt and sister. She’s a semifinalist in an international technology competition and spends her long days working on her entry and going to school.
Hey diary, today is pretty exciting and probably is one of the most satisfying days of this week. So I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and went to school like I normally did but probably with a different excitement. Haha!!!
I really can’t wait to see the result that will be coming out this evening. Will I be one of the shortlisted candidates that will be selected to go to the next round of the international science competition?
Later in the day:
The result finally came out and it was unexpected. It really was. I was so happy and astonished as well, hehe. I PASSED!!! I AM ONE OF THE SHORTLISTED CANDIDATES, YAY!
The first thing I did after knowing my result was calling my grandma and daddy to tell them that Nana passed (Nana is my nickname). They were so happy <3. Seeing how delighted they were gave me the courage to continue fighting. I’m tired now. Good night, diary.
So I woke up at 6:30 a.m. when the alarm rang and went to school on time, hehe! What am I really looking forward to today? Remember about the shortlisted candidates for the science competition thingy? So the program just suddenly announced that tomorrow is the judge cut down round. Like, wait what! This is too fast. I can’t accept this fact. They said it is just choosing the topic, going up on stage and presenting what you are going to do. But hey!!! Choosing your topic is one of the hardest decisions ever.
Like oh my god. I talked to their assistant and begged them so hard and they finally agreed to extend the deadlines. Phew!!!
Well, didn’t get to spend my time with friends or family much but mehh! Will do it another day when I’m a little bit more free.
Monita is a 17-year-old girl who is in the 12th grade and lives in a slum in Phnom Penh with her four younger sisters and her parents. Her father is a tuk-tuk driver who works until midnight to support their family. Her mother works in a garment factory. She writes that she loves her mother very much, because she has made sure Monita and her sisters have never gone hungry and always stayed in school.
Today I spent my time on my social work and my studies. This morning, my youth group and I volunteered to attend the highway opening ceremony which is donated by the Chinese government.
I was very excited when I met my Prime Minister Hun Sen for first time in my life at the event. After that event in the morning, I came back to youth learning club to discuss a fundraising plan to request electricity for easy access to light for other youth and children to study English.
I left club and went home. I bought some snacks for my younger sisters to eat and have fun together.
Today I feel very happy because I met an idol. I am truly excited.This evening, I went to pick my mom up from her work and I helped her cook dinner. After I finished cooking, I went to teach Chinese class for children in my village. This helps me get experience as a teacher.
I went back to my house after teaching. I took a bath and had dinner together with my family. But unfortunately, my dad was absent because he has to work until midnight to earn extra money for our school expenses. Sometimes he arrives home at night while we are sleeping. I usually go to bed at 10 p.m. after I read books. I wake up at 6 a.m.
Today I woke up at 6:15 a.m. to bring my mom to work at the garment factory and come back to buy breakfast for my grandmother. I sat with her and had breakfast together with my sisters. I started to wash my clothes but immediately my stomach was hurting ... I couldn’t hold it and I ran to take pain medicine. Even though I got sick, I helped my best friend buy her clothes in the market.
At 1 p.m. I went to school, but my friend didn’t go because she was busy helping her mom with her business. I could study only two hours because my stomach was hurting. I decided to ask my teacher to rest at home to get well. Today, I feel sad.
Today I dressed up for my friend’s engagement celebration. I also helped my friend do her makeup, and she was very excited with what I did for her and said that I am good at it. When I arrived there, I saw my friends were so pretty and I dream of when it will be my turn. One of my friends asked me “When will you marry?” and I replied, “I don’t know.”
The party finished and I came back home to help my mom with cooking.