Advancing disability rights and leadership globally®

Changing the World through Education

Portrait of Kanika

Disability Rights Leader and 2003 WILD alumna from Cambodia, Kanika Nguon, shares her WILD impact story and how she is transforming her community through education.

I was born in Cambodia and contracted Polio at nine months old. Even at a young age I dreamt of becoming a leader for people with disabilities, traveling to different countries, and living independently.

I faced many challenges in my life — struggling to gain an education, participating in social activities, and looking for jobs. When I was in my fourth year of university, I chose to go into the teaching field, but I was rejected because it was deemed that a person with a physical disability would not be an appropriate role model for students. This hurt deeply, but despite this discrimination, I was determined to achieve my goal.

I developed my leadership skills through international experiences, starting with the WILD program.

I looked to women with disabilities in other countries as my role models. I also had friends, colleagues, and family, all who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. The most exciting achievement was when I was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Master’s of Social Work at the University of Washington in the United States.

When I returned to Cambodia after graduation, my dream came true. I became an instructor at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. I serve as a role model for my students; demonstrating that disability is not a barrier for persons with disabilities to obtain higher education.

Today, I am a woman in power and a woman with confidence. The WILD program gave me the confidence I needed to do my work.

Kanika is particularly interested in strategies to promote children and youth with disabilities to have access to higher education and employment.  She is currently a board member for Komar Pikar Foundation (KPF) and Cambodian Development Mission for Disability (CDMD).

Learn more about the impact of WILD under the related resources section.

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