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First Lady’s Visit Could Inspire Attitude Change, Lawmaker Says

A Cambodian girl prepares bricks to dry under the sun light at a brick factory in Chheuteal village, Kandal province, some 27 kilometers (17 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, file photo.

The impending visit of First Lady Michelle Obama to Cambodia will serve as an opportunity for people and officials to revisit their attitude towards girls’ education, a lawmaker says.

Former Women’s Affairs Minister Mu Sochua, who is also a parliamentarian for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, told “Hello VOA” Wednesday that​ girls don’t receive the same treatment as boys when it comes to decisions concerning their education.

“Despite scholarships being awarded to girls and poor families, it does not last up to grade 12 and beyond,” she said. “Our girls’ dreams are to have higher education, well-paid jobs and decent living standards.”

Obama will visit Cambodia March 21 and March 22, in an effort to promote an international education initiative called Let Girls Learn. The initiative combines efforts of USAID with the Peace Corps, to find community solutions to keep girls in school.

An estimated 62 million girls worldwide are currently not in school, a lack of development that hurts them not only economically but from a health perspective, as well.

“When girls have a chance to learn, they raise healthier families, earn higher salaries,” Obama says in a video accompanying the initiative. “They contribute more to their nations’ economies. That’s why we started Let Girls Learn. We know the best solutions for girls’ education often comes from local communities.”

In Cambodia, girls face poverty, corruption and traditions that keep them at home or de-prioritize learning, especially compared to boys.

These obstacles should be eliminated, Mu Sochua said. “When girls become mothers and they are not educated, they will become mothers who don’t have enough information,” she said. “Once we raise our families without information, our decisions in earning income to support our families are also limited.”