Khen, 25, used to earn money working as a labourer near her rural village in Cambodia. She would be stuck at home with her parents when there was no work available and had contemplated migrating to look for a job. But now, having worked with CARE for the past two years to become a demonstration farmer, Khen is the principal earner in her family, has built her own house and is becoming a leader in her community.
Dressed in faded jeans and a simple T-shirt, Khen looks much younger than her 25 years. As she shows off her home farm with quiet pride, she displays an inner strength and a maturity which has led her to become the successful, independent woman she is today.
“When I worked on the sugar plantation I earned around $3 per day, but even then it wasn’t regular income. I didn’t like working there; I was afraid of snakes and of being there on my own. I thought about moving to another province to look for work, but I was worried about being cheated and scared about what might happen to me as a girl on my own away from my family.
Joining CARE’s training has totally changed my life. I was so interested to learn agricultural skills that would let me earn money without moving away. Before I hadn’t thought about raising animals at home because I wouldn’t know how to keep them or what to feed them. I now make $50 a month from selling chickens alone. I also grow vegetables which we can eat and sell to our neighbours, plus I have made over $1000 in just a few months from selling my pigs!”
Earning a good income has made a difference to Khen’s life in many ways.
“I used to have to ask my parents for money if I wanted to buy things myself but it is great to have an independent income. My parents say they are proud of me and they have actually had me teach them what I know so they can also help to make money from my home farm.
Now we have money we can afford to buy better food, so my family is healthier. I have also been able to save money in our community savings group [VSLA] and overall I’ve made enough income to build my own house.
"There is no way I could ever have achieved this if I had continued working on the sugar plantation. My life is now totally different to what it might have been. I know others who aspire to be teachers but what I want to become is an agriculture expert with my own store to sell animal feed. I want to keep learning new skills so I can be known as the authority on this in my community and help others to succeed the way I have without having to migrate away.”
Khen’s leadership skills are already earning her the respect of her those around her. She shyly shares how her neighbours recently recognised this.
“This year CARE built a community pond to help families to deal with the drought. They set up a committee to look after the pond and manage how it is used – I was elected to be the committee chief! I will work hard to keep the pond clean; I want to add a gate and fence around it and I plan to grow trees around the edge to protect it. I was very proud people voted for me and I’m so happy to be able to help my community in this way.”
Khen now acts as an advisor to others in her community who wish to make money from home farm activities, inspiring other women to follow in her footsteps. As a young female leader who is respected for her skills, she is a great illustration of the value of providing women with skills so they can forge their own futures.
These activities are part of the Local Economic Leadership project, which is funded by the Australian Government.