Story of Change: Voicing Your Sensitivity for Others

My name is Amrin Sotheakeo. I was born in Svay Rieng province, I have lived in Phnom Penh since I was young. Since I was in middle school, I have listened to and witnessed a whole lot of stories about gender marginalization against female domestic workers.

Allow me to testify something. Flashing back to 4 years ago, most domestic workers I knew were women who generally were not given equal opportunity as men to pursue their studies. Some were dropouts whose families had limited resources and access to support them in education. More likely than not, they ended up moving to the city, getting married and most specifically, working in domestic fields. What I have seen includes a moment when a young domestic house worker was physically and mentally abused by their house owner and forced to work late at night and get up early to continue the chores. The situation was drastically sensitive and I, the witness, was silent at times. What I remember the most back then was the few questions I said to myself: Why aren’t they running away? How is their mental health? What makes them come to work here? Still, I had no sight of what to do or clues on what I could do to change the circumstance as my inner self urged me to do so. I was silent and I considered myself useless. I wish I had enough courage to stop them from getting belittled or at least speak up for the moment they were unspeakable.

My perspective changed when I began my first year in college, majoring in social work. The inner self of mine, which was once reserved and fearful, was starting to keep alive the desire to prevent the case I had seen. During that fundamental year, I learned that social work is a profession which works to serve the need and bring the right of those who are marginalized and oppressed, by empowering them to act on their problems. By using the terms of ‘marginalized’ and ‘oppressed’, it is obvious that the existence of gender-based violence against women and girls is on a noticeable line. Volunteering at Women Peacemakers has been an eye-opening experience for me to see the hidden corner of this chronic violence. The questions I used to ask myself have now been revealed that above all, it is the lack of gender education in each individual that tends to cause harmful responses in families, communities and soon, the wider society. Needless to say, it does matter for each and every person to care enough to raise awareness about gender-based violence as well as to help those who are oppressed, so that one day they will be able to rise above the bitterness and norm set in the environment they live in.

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