Matriarchal Country – Girls and Education in Cambodia

Throughout history, Cambodia has always been considered to be a Matriarchal Society, in which females, especially mothers, have the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property. The first ever ruler of Cambodia, Liu Ye, was a woman and her matriarchal leadership is reflected in many terms found in the Kmer language. Terms such as Meh Phum (village chief) and Meh Khum  ( commune chief) in which “Meh” means “female.”

Girls and Education in Cambodia

Girls and Education in Cambodia


In Cambodian culture, women and girls are considered to be like “white paper” which needs to be kept pure. This is why parents in Cambodian communities tend to be strict and protective of their daughters  and women in general. A family’s daughters are ideally considered to be honorable and valuable within the family. Boys generally have more freedom within the family. Boys are encouraged to explore the opportunities that the outside world offers whereas girls are not so encouraged. This is one of the reasons that boys have easier access to higher education than do Cambodian girls.


During the reign of the Pol Pot regime the education system was largely destroyed and there were no more formal schools available for the teaching of the young. Since Pol Pot, the education system has slowly been rebuilt through Buddhism where the monks have an important role in  teaching morality and literacy, however, this education is only available to boys, as girls are not permitted to study with the monks. This inequality continues right up until the present day and few girls in Cambodia have access to a good education. Most parents try to educate their sons but find it financially impossible to educate their daughters as well This is due not only to the cultural limitations and availability of adequate resources but also to difficulties of accessibility of suitable education for girls.



  1. Fay Berry says

    Hi Sithy,
    I think the work you are doing is a very valuable one and the lack of education for women and girls in Cambodia is indeed a concern. Education for women for any country should be its most urgent aim. Women are the carers of families and if the women are strong and courageous, the whole country will be strong and courageous. If women’s eduction is ignored, the whole country suffers. Keep uf your good work.

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