The Latest

In Honor of Malala Day: The Power of Perseverance

July 12, 2013

July 12, 2013 is the 16th birthday of Malala Yousafzai, a girls’ education activist who was brutally shot for speaking out in October 2012, and the first ever Malala Day as designated by the United Nations. In a speech commemorating the event, Malala called upon girls around the world to stand up for their rights—to fight for an education against all odds. It is in that spirit and in honor of Malala Day that we bring you the story of Leakhena, an alumna of our Girls’ Education program who is forging her own path to success.

Leakhena’s life could have been very different had she not been determined to go to school. Born into a fishing family in rural Cambodia, her parents always struggled to make ends meet. After her father’s sudden death in a fishing accident, Leakhena was expected to drop out of school and help her mother with the family business. Determined to stay in school, she refused—arguing frequently with her mother about the importance of education. Locked in a stalemate, she eventually sent to live with an aunt in a distant village. Leakhena spent the next three years selling star fruits and jujubes in order to pay for her school fees. 

Initially, Leakhena was hesitant about joining Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program, unsure of what it would entail or if she would even be accepted. To her surprise, she was chosen to participate in 2005. In addition to receiving material support to help pay her school fees, Leakhena also learned to think positively and manage her time through her participation in the program—characteristics that have stayed with her ever since.

After graduating from secondary school in 2011, Leakhena began to pursue tertiary education, armed with the skills she had learned from the Girls’ Education program and the support of her fellow alumnae. Currently an accounting student at the University of South East Asia, Leakhena supports herself by working at a popular restaurant in Siem Reap. Her 8-hour shifts can make it difficult to find time to study, but she is determined.

Leakhena’s job has provided her with more than just an income. She has found a role model as well. The owner of the restaurant where she works, like Leakhena, comes from a poor family. Through education and hard work, the woman is now a successful business owner. “I am inspired by her because she proves that success is not always rooted in family wealth,” says Leakhena. “It is a matter of effort and perseverance.”

With a clear vision for her future and a solid foundation in education, Leakhena is destined for success. “I want to marry someone well-educated and share a joint venture with my husband—a small shop where I can be the cashier, accountant and manager all at the same time!”

With her successful transition to university, Leakhena has earned a special distinction—joining the two-thirds of Girls’ Education program alumnae that have successfully pursued tertiary education after graduation.

Check out our latest Girls’ Education Yearbook to meet nine incredible young women—like Malala and Leakhena—who are bravely claiming their right to a quality education.

Related Articles

Spotlight on Life Skills: When Menstruation is Taboo


July 23, 2018

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >

How Saluom Became an Inspiration to her Village


November 14, 2017

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >

Measuring Life Skills in Cambodia


October 12, 2017

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >

Seab's Literacy Reroutes Family's Chain of Child Labor


May 13, 2017

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >

TATCHA + Room to Read — A Beautiful Partnership to Educate Girls Globally


April 14, 2017

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >

The Nonprofit Using Scavenger Hunts to Research Girls' Education


November 21, 2016

Girls' Education, India

Read More >

Vietnam’s Girls’ Education Class of 2014: Where Are They Now?


November 03, 2016

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Measuring the Effectiveness of a Life Skills Education


November 03, 2016

Girls' Education, India

Read More >

Multiyear Strategizing at This Year’s Country Management Conference


October 18, 2016

Literacy, India

Read More >

How Her Mother Inspired Nirupa to Beat the Odds


May 08, 2016

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

A Year After the Nepal Earthquake, a Survivor Finds Strength at School


April 22, 2016

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

For India’s School Girls, How One Father’s Support Gets Multiplied


March 14, 2016

Girls' Education, India

Read More >

What Happens When You Take Girls’ Education in Laos Beyond the Classroom?


January 27, 2016

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

John Wood: My Three-Phrase Philosophy for Changing the World Through Education


John Wood

| November 13, 2015

Literacy, Asia

Read More >

#ThankstoEducation We Can Help Our Children Reach Their Dreams


November 09, 2015

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

#ThankstoEducation I Can Teach Girls the Skills They Need to Make Key Life Decis...


November 06, 2015

Girls' Education, India

Read More >

#ThankstoEducation I Can Change My Family’s Destiny for the Better


November 04, 2015

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

International Day of the Girl: Meet Shabnam Whose Courage Has Inspired Hundreds ...


October 09, 2015

Girls' Education, India

Read More >

How These Two Cambodian Schoolgirls Became Inspiring Role Models for Other Girls...


July 30, 2015

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >

She Didn’t Know It Was Her Wedding Day


May 07, 2015

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

First Lady Of The United States Michelle Obama And First Lady Of Cambodia Bun Ra...


March 23, 2015

Press Releases, Cambodia

Read More >

The villagers tell her she’s aiming too high, but First Lady Michelle Obama tell...


March 22, 2015

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >

Michelle Obama visits Cambodia for 'Let Girls Learn' Asia trip


March 21, 2015

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >

After Devastating Flood in Nepal, Room to Read Team Bands Together to Bring Reli...


January 28, 2015

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

VIDEO: The story of a girl worth celebrating on this International Day of the Gi...


October 10, 2014

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Show and Tell: Boys and Girls Celebrate Women in Laos


March 20, 2014

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

International Women’s Day: Dreaming of Olympic Gold in Nepal


March 04, 2014

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Reconnecting with "Nurse Prem" in Nepal


December 16, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Guest Blog: Atlassian Foundation Sees Their Investments at Work in Cambodia


December 11, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

A "Shining Moonlight" For Girls Everywhere


November 25, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Show and Tell: Innovating for Girls’ Education


October 14, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

In Honor of International Day of the Girl Child: From Nepal to New Jersey


October 07, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

In Laos, Life Skills Training and Parental Support Help Sisters find Strength


August 12, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Guest Blog by Author Manjushree Thapa: Meeting Some of Nepal's Extraordinary Gir...


June 21, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Tune in: Suma’s Story Comes to CNN this Sunday!


June 13, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Social Mobilizers in India and Vietnam Get a Boost from Technology Pilot


May 20, 2013

Girls' Education, India

Read More >

Girls' Education Program Alumna in Cambodia Finds Success After Graduation


April 29, 2013

Girls' Education, Cambodia

Read More >