The presence of Chbab Srey in classrooms well into the 20th century tells the uninitiated much of what they need to know about the power of gender roles in Cambodia’s education system.
An infamous 19th-century code of conduct guiding young girls on how they should behave – from respecting their husbands, to the way they should speak and move – it was only removed from the mandatory public school curriculum in 2007. As recently as 2015, a shorter version of the poem was reportedly still taught to pupils from grades 7 to 9.
But while a watered-down Chbab Srey may play a less significant role in the development of Cambodian girls today, for Caring for Cambodia (CFC) founder and CEO Jamie Amelio, the potent message underpinning it is yet to be fully eradicated.
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