Chana* used to live each day in fear. At 24 years-of-age, she and her son were living in her hometown of Koh Kong in the southwest of Cambodia. But her home was not a safe place - it was there that she was subjected to mental and physical abuse by the person who should have helped her to feel safe: her husband.
‘I lived with my husband for about one year but after that I could not live with him anymore. I had to file for divorce and come back to live with my parents. He treated me very badly,’ she says.
Thankfully, with support from her family and an indisputable amount of evidence of the abuse she had suffered, Chana was able to divorce her husband and is now going from strength to strength to turn her young life around.
Chana is part of CARE’s women’s empowerment program; WE BLOOM. The project helps women andmarginalised groups realise their potential and develop sustainable job prospects so they can plan theirown future.
She attended literacy, numeracy and life skills classes that taught her about goal setting, conflictresolution and reproductive health. ‘Before I attended the literacy class I read very poorly because Ionly went to school until third grade. Now, I can write and read much better and I don’t make mistakes,’she says.
Equipped with her newfound knowledge and support from CARE, Chana selected an apprenticeship and made the final step to translate her skills into an income. For the past five months, she has been working in a local beauty salon, training to be a beautician and to one day open her own store.
Learning practical skills and accessing the local job industry means that she is also safe from another common risk for women in the district - migration.
Koh Kong borders Thailand, and many young girls enter the neighbouring country in pursuit of thehope that they can receive more money for their labour. In reality, many of these women end up beingunderpaid, with no ability to claim their rights in a foreign country, or worse still, they enter the sexindustry.
Thay Apsara, CARE’s Project Officer for WE BLOOM, says ‘most people find after they arrive in the country their passports are taken and they cannot come back. There are some others risks too, when young women work as domestic servants for a family there are cases of them being raped or beaten.’
Thankfully, this will not be Chana’s fate - her apprenticeship has meant she has the opportunity to secure a future for her son in her hometown.
Her future, away from a violent and painful past, is one she’s working to ensure others can have too.Outside the busy salon, she is helping to raise awareness about domestic violence in her commune as amember of CARE’s Youth Apprentice Committee. ‘My role is to meet with youth and find out what theirmain concern is and bring the issue to the youth committee. We’ve created some publications aboutdomestic violence and I am hoping I will be able to share it with other communities,’ she said.
After turning her pain to strength Chana is confident about her future and what kind of husband her son will be one day. ‘I want to send my son to school to have a better education than me so that he can have a good job. He will also understand how to respect his wife and treat women equally.’