Srey Dum is a former MLE student and has gone on to become a police officer for her local community. She is currently a statistics and administrative officer – the first woman to have this job at her police station. She visits families to collect household information, register births, and issue identity documents. She believes that having a woman in the police is important, as other women can feel confident sharing their complaints with her.
Srey Dum’s story in her own words:
The best thing about going to the multi-lingual school was all the books and posters with pictures from our own culture and our way of doing things. And it was easy to learn because we could speak Tampuen. I remember that the teachers spoke Tampuen and they were kind to us.
I think the multilingual schools have helped Khmer and Indigenous people to understand each other, yes. You can imagine what would happen to Tampuen kids if they were enrolled in a Khmer school and they didn’t even speak Khmer.
I’ve been a police officer since 2012. I was so excited and happy on the day I graduated from police training [refers to framed photo on her wall]. I want to move up in my career, up the ranks to become a more senior officer. I quit school at Grade 9 to join the police but then I went back to finish secondary school, but I failed Grade 12. When my baby’s a bit older I would like to attempt Grade 12 again.
I’m a statistics and administrative officer, which means I spend most of my time visiting families to collect household information, register births, and issue identity documents. At the end of the month I prepare a report with all the data for the senior officer.
For the past few years, I’ve also been working on complaints from the community. Families will come to me with land title disputes, family violence, gambling complaints and fights and disputes in the village. Some cases can be settled at the community level with the village elders, and I help to facilitate this. But in some cases I have to step in to solve things or collect information for it to be solved at a higher level. I’m really proud to be helping my community overcome their problems.
I work at the police station in Lung Khung commune, which covers four villages, and I look after my village which has about 160 households and around 700 people. There are six police officers at my station. Our chief is Khmer and the rest of us are Indigenous. I’m the only woman, the first woman police officer in my commune.
I’m very proud of my job, and I’m proud to be the first woman to do it. Especially in Indigenous communities, not many women do things like this. Before, when there were only male officers, there were hardly any complaints about domestic violence. When women got hit by their husbands they wouldn’t speak out, they weren’t comfortable to tell a man about it. But I encourage them not to keep it quiet, and they tell me. And recently we’ve seen a reduction in domestic violence complaints.
At the police station we speak a mixture of Khmer and Tampuen, and I write my reports in Khmer. It’s very useful to speak both languages because when the villagers approach me they can speak in their own language with no need to translate.
In my family I use both languages. I’m married to a Khmer man and he speaks some Tampuen. I speak mostly Tampuen to our children and he speaks mostly Khmer. If I hadn’t been to school maybe I wouldn’t have married him because I would have just been a poor village girl and he wouldn’t have liked me! [Laughs.] We live in this house with my parents, one day I hope we will have our own house. My parents used to be farmers and when I was a child my dad taught at the multi-lingual school. Now he’s the village chief. I think any parent’ biggest hope is for their children to be knowledgeable. My parents never pressured me to become a police officer but they’re very proud that I am.
I think my success makes other people look up to me, especially other women. There aren’t many jobs in the village except for being a teacher. My job is very competitive and many people apply. Indigenous people, especially Indigenous women in my community don’t usually have much education which is why I was selected. People see me and they’re inspired to graduate and get a job. I have helped change parents’ minds about education. Before they would say “if you don’t go to school you’ll eat rice, if you go to school you’ll still eat rice, so why go?” But now they see it’s important for their kids’ futures.
Looking back there weren’t many people to inspire me in my community. But over the years I’ve learnt from a lot of people here and there. I’ve learnt from my teachers and from CARE, because CARE provided the school materials and financial support and always inspired me. Being a police officer, I’m learning from a lot of people outside my community, like my station chief, who inspires me to progress in the police force and shows me how I can get there. I’ve reached this level but I expect the next generation will reach an even higher level in their education and jobs.
Like any parent, I hope for the best for my kids. I hope they’re educated, at least until Grade 12. The last thing I want is for them to be uneducated and be trouble-makers. I hope they can get any skills and any job they want. These days children need to be more independent and resilient.
CARE has supported my community and my family a lot. We asked for clean water so they taught people how to build the systems and gave us big jars to store our water and gave us water filters. Girls and women used to walk really far to collect water from the spring, often at night time which was dangerous. I used to do this three times a day when I was a girl. Now we have water right to our houses 24/7. About 15 years ago CARE took photos of me for a school book about water and hygiene, and kids still use this in the multi-lingual schools today.