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.