The Fight for an Education

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”You have a chance to go to school, you should be so happy and thankful for your parents,” said Sokha Chen, a girl featured in “Girl Rising.”

It’s a message that’s gained attention in the Naperville area after local residents had the opportunity to see the film “Girl Rising” at Hollywood Palms Cinema.

The 2013 documentary, which was followed by a book, shares the story of how nine girls in the developing world confront barriers to their education and in some cases overcome them, leading to a better life for themselves and their families.

“If you can get girls in school and keep them there all this great stuff happens. Child marriage goes down, child birth happens later, children are healthier, more money comes back into the family in the community,” said Kayce Freed Jennings, Senior Producer of “Girl Rising.”

It’s a lesson learned first hand by Sokha Chen, one of the girls featured in the film. Sokha grew up in Cambodia as an orphan working in terrible conditions on a dump to help feed her sisters.

“Even though it was like fifty cents a day, but that’s a lot to me,” said Sokha.

But she longed for a brighter future and knew the only way to achieve that was through an education.

“All I wanted was to be educated and I have no parents. Every time I see all those kids to go school, having a backpack uniform I feel like ‘why can’t I just have a chance to go to school like them?’ I wish I could go back to school,” said Sokha.

Through the help of sponsors and “Girl Rising,” Sokha was able to do just that – finishing high school in Cambodia and now attending college in Chicago. Watching the film now brings feelings of gratitude and hope.

“I just can’t describe it because I was so sad and cried every time I watched it. And it’s encouraged me more to work harder and I hope those who watched it, and if you haven’t yet, please watch it, and get the message from those girls that are struggling: to go to school. They have no chance but they’re fighting, if you have a chance, grab it,” added Sokha.

While young girls in our area face different setbacks, they’re the ones that can create change in the future.

“If we’re really going to make a difference it’s going to be up to those young kids in there,” said Freed Jennings.

A lesson that’s already sunk in with many.

“You can do anything no matter who you are or what you are, you can sort of just be yourself and you can do it,” said Dominique Fuller, an attendee of the “Girl Rising” event.

A portion of the ticket sales from Anderson’s Bookshop event went to benefit “A New Day In Cambodia,” a non-profit that helped Sokha Achieve an education.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.