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What does financial independence mean for mothers in Cambodia?

Phon, 25, may live in a village in the Cambodian province of Koh Kong, but she faces the same challenges as many modern women around the world as she tries to balance family life with her own personal development. CARE’s training has helped her realise being a mother needn’t limit her aspirations and that she has just as much potential to succeed as a man does.

Over the last few years Phon has joined a number of different activities with CARE: she has learned about managing household finances; learned technical skills to raise animals well; attended training on how to stay healthy; and joined a savings group. The combined impact of this support has made a big difference in her family’s finances, health and education.

“Before, I had no responsibility other than household chores. I tried to raise animals in traditional ways but many of them died,” says Phon. “After I learned technical skills from CARE I was much more successful. I bought a pig for $100 and fed it for 3 months. When it produced piglets I sold these for nearly $500. The chicks from my hens also made me $100 and provided food for my family. Now we have a second income, my husband and I can save so our children can have good healthcare and a good education.”

Being able to earn an income equal to her husband’s has a huge impact on Phon’s position within her family. “CARE’s training has helped me to have an income independent of my husband. Now I feel confident that I could support my family if something happened to him.” Now she is not dependent on her husband for everything, Phon and her two young children are less vulnerable to many different risks, from illness to domestic violence.

This confidence has changed Phon’s perception of herself. “Now I see my role as a woman as being bigger than just my family. I have a role in contributing to our children’s future as well as caring for them.” Her husband’s attitude has changed to match hers—as well as earning he now also helps with household chores.

Phon’s belief in her abilities extends beyond the home as she takes on roles which her mother’s generation may have shied away from. She is an acknowledged leader who chairs one community savings group and advises two others; she also manages a group of 15 female farmers who now learn agricultural skills from her directly.

“I am valued within my community,” she asserts. “In my opinion, leadership is not based on gender but on knowledge. Men and women have equal ability to lead. I am younger than many in my savings group, but because of my leadership skills I am valued.”

Phon’s example is helping to change cultural norms in her community. Women from her mother’s generation did not have a role outside the family. “My mother only stayed in her home,” she says. “But now my role is more than this. I have achieved a good balance between my responsibilities as a leader in the community and supporting my family.”

These activities are part of Local Economic Leadership for Marginalised Rural Women which is funded by the Australian Government.

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