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Thoughts from Cambodia on International Women’s Day

In observance of International Women’s day, we pay tribute to the amazing women on our team in Southeast Asia! The following empowering stories have been shared with us by some of our female staff in Cambodia.

Sokunna (right) and her mother (left)
Sokunna, (right) and her mother, (left)

Sokunna

When Sokunna’s mother was her age, she was already married and had three children. She began her own fish exporting business away from home. Her mother was gone often to oversee the business and help support their family. They missed each other very much and Sokunna’s mother came back home. Though she was happy to be back home with her family, Sokunna’s mother still had the ambition to help make money for them and she began a fish exporting business in the local market. She was the first woman business owner in Sokunna’s hometown. Business was successful and she helped other people in the community start businesses too.

At home, Sokunna says life for Cambodian women is filled with great responsibility. Women need to work hard to support their children and put them through school, and to “Teach them how to be respectful and kind to people.” Children in Cambodia today are more informed about technology and their mothers are devoted to working hard to provide their children things they never had themselves, like smartphones and iPads.

Life has changed so much for Cambodian women over the years. In Sokunna’s lifetime alone, she has seen changes in norms from dress to being allowed higher education, the option to have a boyfriend, or to move away from home. Now Cambodian women are free to dress as they choose, pursue an education, learn English and other languages, learn about modern technology, and to travel away from home and their parents as they choose.

Sokunna has no daughters of her own yet, but she says,

“If I have a daughter I expect her life in the future to be successful, bright, well educated, perfect, and cheerful in the rest of her life after she marries. International Women’s Day is the day that reinforces the persistence of women all over the world to have a freedom, democracy, and rights to think as a man: Men work hard and women also work hard; Men receive a higher education and so should women; Men receive a good salary and women should also have a good salary.”

If Sokunna could tell the world one thing on behalf of Cambodian women, she says,

“Women can became business women, CEOs, or presidents just like men. A woman can be a survivor without a man.”

Chieu, her mother, and her sister
Chieu, her mother, and her sister

Chieu

Chieu’s mother was also married by the time she was Chieu’s age. She was a housewife and homemaker for her husband and two children.

Chieu says that while Cambodian women have rights to do many more things in their daily lives much more than before, they are still expected to take care of all housework, cook, wash clothes, and take care of all family members.

Today, Cambodian women are able to study at school and have jobs, so some mothers spend time more time working and they put their children through private school, sometimes as early as age 3.

In the workplace, most of Cambodian women are able to work for the government and have the opportunity to work for private companies, because they are able to get the education and develop the knowledge that enables them to work the same jobs as men.

“In my lifetime, I think that all life has changed for Cambodian women, because they get education at school as well as from their peers. Before, older generations maintained the old thinking that women should not study or go outside home. They must do housework and be a wife,” says Chieu. “In modern society, many people give more value to women and most have the chance to accomplish their goals and dreams. Moreover, Cambodian women are now able to get scholarships to study abroad.”

If Chieu has daughters in the future she says,

“I hope that their lives will include better education, happiness, and respect from society as women, even in their own future married lives.”

Chieu says International Women’s Day reminds her of the effort of women to obtain rights in society, and as a result, women have equal rights with men and work in society to improve the economy. Women can express ideas and present questions to the public, and women can also work toward developing the country.

“One thing that I would like to tell the world as a Cambodian woman is that women have the same ability to succeed in any job to develop the country as men.”

International Women’s Day- Vietnam

By: Michelle Nguyen- Vietnam Country Director

Across Southeast Asia, 8 March is celebrated as International Women’s Day.  In Vietnam, this means that men and children throughout the country take over the chores for the day, give the women in their lives (from teachers to wives and mothers) gifts and generally pamper them to show them their respect, love and thanks. All the florists are bursting with amazing flowers and fragrant bouquets and flower sellers are seen along the streets to remind passers-by that it is a special day.

Streetside Florists in Saigon- A perfect reminder for forgetful husbands

It is also common for school children to take a small gift to their female teachers and bring home something handmade from their day at school.

Many choose to say 'Thank you' with flowers

Here’s a peek into  how some of our staff celebrate this special day:

Saigon

This year my husband and I just took some time out of our busy lives simply to have a walk in the park and relax at a coffee shop, just the two of us without kids in tow.  My 4 year old daughter brought home a beautiful paper flower she had made and decorated at school for me and in the evening my husband treated my daughters, mother-in-law and I to a meal out so we didn’t have to cook. Wonderful!

Around the city the coffee shops all have special occasion treats on offer and restaurants or hotels host events too.

Hue

Mrs. Binh is one of our amazing guides and such a gentle woman with a wonderful sense of humour. She told me her young sons bought her some flowers and that they visited her husband’s village to spend some time and take a gift to his mother. In the city of Hue itself there were music and dance shows performed by students.

Hanoi

Mrs. Thuong is one of the stars in our team. She works very hard behind the scenes with us to give you the special holidays you ask for. This year she spent her day celebrating with the team in Hanoi and in the evening she went out for dinner with some friends and her family.

I learnt something new this year- Mrs. Thuong let me know that in addition to the public music shows, normally, if you are a member of women’s organisation, you will be invited to join in a meeting and music show at the city cultural hall for a few hours.

So it goes to show that there is always another layer of this culture to peel back and discover, no matter how long you are here…

Want to see more pictures of how Women’s Day was celebrated at our office?  Click here

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