International Literacy Day: Profound Potential in a Young Girl’s Story

In a quavering voice of strength, Sony Chork tells her story of hardship and hope. It begins in a setting of poverty, hunger and abuse in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

As a young teen, Sony wanted to quit school. Life with an alcoholic, abusive and unemployed father felt overwhelming. Finding work, paying for school and caring for her younger siblings seemed too unfair to expect her mother to handle alone. But then, through an organization called Room to Read, Sony found her way.

She’s sponsored in a girls’ education program and earns literacy, life skills and leadership. She discovers bravery and confidence. And she becomes the first woman in her family to not only graduate from secondary school, but also to attend university and earn a degree in International Relations. She discovers her profound potential.

I blink away the tears as I hear Sony’s story. It reminds me of visiting Siem Reap in 2017 for a Genesys customer event. Arriving early, I rode a tuk tuk to experience the awe of Angkor Wat and then spent a day at ABCs and Rice, a non-profit that offers free education, nutrition and healthcare to children of Cambodia. I’ll never forget the lump I had in my throat that day as I watched boys and girls get so excited just labeling pictures with the right English proper nouns. It was a stark reminder that I take my own literacy — and my children’s — for granted.

Every child deserves the same access to quality education. But even now, too many don’t get it. Despite progress made, literacy challenges persist with at least 773 million young people and adults today. A disproportionate amount — two-thirds — are women and girls. Cultural bias, child marriages, gender discrimination and safety concerns discourage girls from learning. And these pressures are amplified when girls reach secondary school. This is a crisis; and we know the single best approach to improving the status of women is through education. Exemplified in Sony’s story, education creates ripples of change that fundamentally transform lives.

Genesys Women in Technology (GWIT) has a mission to empower women and inspire growth — to take action and lead the change to amplify women’s voices. That’s why GWIT is partnering with Room to Read to empower girls through education. The Room to Read Girls’ Education Program was founded with the belief that educated women can change the world. Educated women are healthier, earn more income for their families, and are greater contributors to their community and country.

For International Literacy Day on September 8th, we invite you to join our cause. In partnership with Room to Read, we hope to make a difference by sponsoring at least 100 girls in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India — countries Room to Read has identified has having the greatest need. Less than $1 a day will support one girl for a full year in the Room to Read Girls’ Education program.

Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. And right now, you can empower girls like Sony to discover their profound potential. Give to Room to Read online today.