We met with Ms. Nay Sokmeng. She is an RWI scholarship recipient dreaming of becoming a teacher, who eventually with the help of Cambodia Legal Education for Women and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute received scholarships resulting in her becoming a lawyer. Read her amazing story.
1. Can you describe your experience and process before you graduated?
I used to work at a garment factory but dreamt of passing as a teacher. I did not want to work at the factory anymore and back then, being a teacher was already a high enough ambition for a girl from a province like me. Surprisingly, I received a scholarship from Cambodia Legal Education for Women (CLEW) with the help of my teacher, Marri, who was working at Kampuchea Action to Promote Education (KAPE) back then. However, at first, I rejected them. I was hesitant at the prospect of me continuing my study when I was at the age where I thought I should work. I even had a solid career plan which was to sell food on the street. But, after the person they ended up choosing passed as a teacher, I fortunately got to decide again. I was told that I could work with my teacher if I could not find a job after graduation. So, I accepted the scholarship and went to study at the city, Phnom Penh. I thought to myself that I would not lose anything just from studying.
2. What were the challenges and how did you overcome it?
During my school years, I was not confident and I could not stop comparing myself to other students. I was insecure and I blamed it on my fate for the fact that I was not pretty and rich. It was frustrating that I did not understand English or know how to use technology back then. I honestly struggled a lot but there were also kind people at my dorm who helped me getting through those challenges.
I had a money stipend of 52$ and a bike so we cooked and ate together to save money. Unexpectedly, I got a scholarship from RWI too during my third year to study English Language Based Bachelor of Law Program (ELBBL) and was so happy. I remembered when the scholarship committee asked me if I could finish my study, when I did not know much English. I said that I would make it possible because I did not want to waste the scholarship. In the end, I graduated from both Khmer and English Law degrees and became a lawyer.
3. How has this opportunity from RWI impacted your life both professionally and personally?
From the ELBBL program, my English became better and it helped me in writing English law for my clients. I now believe in my own preservation and self-confident to practice because I believe that talent is not enough without practice. Additionally, after I passed as a lawyer, I began adopting my own value which was to help people who did not have the ability to afford a lawyer. Until now, I did pro bono at Koh Kong province.
4. What lessons have you learned going through all these experiences?
I learned that the world is bigger than me. It was not just money, but the opportunity that gave me a second life. I would have been working at a factory or stuck at my hometown if it was not for that. Through being a lawyer, I had my own values and discipline. I am now an independent woman that relied on myself.
I would say that do not think you cannot do something. Everything is possible. There will always be people who doubt you, but that person cannot be you.