Cambodian Teenagers – a study in contrast

Contemporary Issues

Midwife students hangout on the boardwalk, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 27, 2017. All of these students, who are in their first year of midwifery school didn't know that abortion was legal except in special cases. None of them had boyfriends at the moment, but some had in the past. One had broken up with a boy because he cheated on her, and another because she 'needed to be free'. Cambodia has a very traditional culture, which makes it hard for young women to meet friends or boys outside the home, particularly in rural areas. But in the cities, urban teenage life is radically different from that of their country counterparts. Although still very conservative, and city girls are subject to strict curfews, they also can spend their free time with friends prowling through malls and sitting on boardwalks, eating out, or skateboarding.

Cambodia has seen a dramatic rise in teenage girls getting pregnant over the last four years. Yet the contrast between teenage mothers in the countryside, who enter into adulthood while still being children, and young women living in Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh is striking.

A recentĀ report by Save the Children said that young girls having babies has increased by 50% in the north of country. This upsurge is mostly happening in rural areas where girls are rigidly controlled by their parents. Consequently, they don’t feel like they have many choices for their lives, so they drop out of school and get married young. This project was funded by the European Journalism Centre and was published in Elle UK.

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