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Profile about Vannsan Nou

Vannsan Nou wonders why she was born as a girl at all while the beginning of the end of the Khmer Rouge regime was stepping in. Grown into a good-looking lady with a slender figure, pale skin and shoulder-length haircut, this 23-year old connects her ‘boring’ past with her ‘cheerful’ present moment.
Life of a mentally rebellious girl
After living briefly at the camp as a child, her family moved from the refugee camp to the last stronghold area of the Khmer Rouge, Anlung Veng in Addor Meanchey province. At that time, several provinces were still militarily controlled by the remaining Khmer Rouge until 1998.
But for Vannsan as a child, she started questioning herself instead why she was born as a girl. At the new place her family called ‘the second refugee camp’, her father would tell all the children to adapt to the living still under the control of the Khmer Rouge and that would mean ‘no playing outside’ for the girls.
“My father would then advise us against mischief that could bring us trouble, and one thing for sure was girls had to stay indoors in the evenings. I couldn’t protest out loud, but in my mind I knew that was not right for me or what I wanted. Then, I would sit down and pray to God to be a man next life,” she says.
“Now I know what’s right”
After being exposed to working and studying with western women, Vannsan starts to feel hope and later spend days and nights working hard to be a strong and independent woman.
“Who says a woman can’t be beautiful and intelligent at the same time?” Vannsan asks. “We can’t be restricted to just the kitchen area and only looking after kids all the time?”
Now living far away from her parents, Vannsan has to make most of the decisions for her work and study. Now working as an assistant communication officer, Vannsan grins most of the time when meeting her friends. Conversely, at home her parents wanted her to become a doctor, a high-class profession nowadays. But, she knew more than everybody else what she wanted the most in her life.
She entered the media school in 2006 and started off with no regret. She thinks a woman like her must be empowered with a good education that involves traveling and talking to different people.
“All my life, I never want anybody to lead me to where they want, but I strongly need to lead myself to where I want to go. I rejected my parents’ order, and I’m not going to listen to anyone who doesn’t listen to me,” she says. “My relatives often call me a bundle of contradictions,” she recalls.
Empowerment for Women
Receiving some education about the western world, Vannsan does not have a national hero yet. John F. Kennedy, a former US president, is the one who inspires her the most, but she does not favour the USA, as her destination for pursuit of a high education. One of the most modern European countries is more than her delight.
“Whatever other people want to do, I don’t want to,” she says, giggling. “I want to do something which is different and which is from real me.” Even more, she looks to foreign women who can travel around countries for work, with high regard and wants to enjoy the same taste of freedom for once in her lifetime.
“My only wish after graduation from abroad is to initiate a woman-empowering program to help women as well as men to realize their own potential.” However, when asked how she could cope with her study when she’s getting older, she turned to her friend sitting on the bench next to her and said, raising her worried tone, “Seangheng, I’m nearly 24.”

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