“Girls play sports too? Girls are slower than boys! You will get tired easily; if you play sports your skin will get darker! Sports are not for girls!”
In Cambodia, when people hear the word “Kei La” (sports) they immediately think of boys. Vicki Chan’s article in 2014 about Ultimate (Frisbee) Cambodian Women declared “I notice that it is exclusively dominated by men, even though my school is 75%, women.” During recess, girls often sit under the shade of a tree and chat. The boys would use that time to play volleyball and soccer based on Vicki Chan.
The question is “Is this the girls’ fault?” I bet it’s not, this is because of the Cambodian history of how it shaped the girls. During this era, girls had strict commands, one of which they had to “go under the shade”, which is referred to in Khmer as “Chol Mlobb”. Girls would Chol Mlobb when they hit puberty. They would always linger inside the house and take care of their beauty. Furthermore, those girls had to learn various rules that get them ready to become wives. On the other hand, there also girls that in this society that passion in sports but feel frightened to ask the boys to share the field.
As a young girl lives in a typical life in a rural area, where that’s a lack of understanding about gender equity. One of them is sports if you were to walk to the sports field the boys dominate it. Is this because girls don’t like sports or because the field is dominated by boys?
This young brave girl named Horl Sokra has joined the first women frisbee league in Cambodia. Sports is apart of her life because this young athlete’s girl believes that sports would her to be a bolder person, more confident, healthier, lose weight, and fresher after playing. She plays soccer which is very common in Cambodia for boys. She repeats again no one forces her to play sports it starts from her
Horl Sokra expressed, it’s a huge struggle to coax the boys to share the field or play with them. The boys would respond to Horl Sokra: “Girls play sports too? Girls are slower than boys! You will get tired easily; if you play sports your skin will get darker! Sports are not for girls!”.
Horl Sokra angrily express her feeling toward the boys “We have legs and arms the same as the boys too; girls also have their own passion for sports same as the boys too.”
People can’t just make assumptions and judge a girl by her cover. We need to understand the situations they’ve been through and put yourself into someone’s shoes; one should understand how the other feels. This is only one single girl’s story and there are many Cambodian girls also have to confront these struggles as well.
Sreyneang Oun is 16 years old, Liger Leadership Academy student, if she was Horl Sokra, she would say “Don’t look down at the girls!” then she would walk away; she will form a team with other girls with the same passion and train themselves so one day they prove boys that “She can do it”. It’s much better than having conflicts with the boys.
If Cindy Liu, Liger Leadership Academy facilitator, is Horl Sokra she would respond that “there are no biological differences that women can’t play sports. I can choose what to do. There is no law said women can’t play sport!”
As a boy, Vuthy Vey calmly mentioned: “As a boy, we don’t really know what are the girls’ struggles unless they tell us.” Vuthy wants to clearly know that girls actually love sports and tell him reasons why they want to play. Then I asked him if he is a girl in this situation what would you reply or react? He paused then takes a moment to think. I could see it’s hard for him to think about what to response. A moment later he suddenly said, “If I would be a girl I would say, I play sports because it’s fun and it’s food for my health”. An hour later he gave me another statement “If I’m better than you what do you think? When you started to play you think you did well? Let me tell you nobody is perfect when they begin to do something! ”
I asked several students and staff from the Liger Leadership Academy what they would do if they were in the shoes of Horl Sokra. Bunthan Un, Liger Leadership Academy stated: “People have their own passion and have the right to play sports”.
Kangnaneat Sophea quickly responded with confidence: “I don’t want to be the girls that shape by the society, I want to be different. It does not affect anyone, if they stop me in a bad way I won’t stop following my passion.”
Puthea Kimhan would response: “Sports it’s not only for boys but it also for girls, girls can help to develop sports too, there are fewer girls in sports in Cambodia , so we need more girls to participate in sports”
So let me ask you a question if you were her in that situation what would your response?
A group of Liger’s students implementing the first Cambodian frisbee league, we want to empower rural girls in Cambodia and challenge stereotypes through the facilitation of a more gender-equitable environment in sports. Our frisbee league will bring sports for girls in Cambodia in the next level, changing that reality for hundreds of girls in rural Cambodia to participate in sports. There will be more girls on the field, boys will see the power of girls in sports.