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When Thida* hears the loud, male voice of her teacher in the classroom, she cannot help but imagine her father hurting her family. Thida, now a 17-year-old girl studying in tenth grade at the Cambodia-Japan Friendship High School in her village, used to be a victim of domestic violence in her family.
Thida is the third of five children in her family, and she lives with her mother and siblings in Prey Veng Province in the Southeast region of Cambodia near the border with Vietnam. Her mother makes a living working as a farmer to support the family.
She used to live in an abusive family situation, and she never felt love or care within her family because her parents were constantly fighting with each other due to the negative influence of alcohol. Moreover, her neighbours had lost all patience with the conduct of the family, and there was a general feeling of discrimination in the community against the family for this.
When Thida’s father died in 2015, he left the family without the means to earn income. Because of the general negative feelings towards her family, no one in the community tried to help or even act friendly to them. In order to earn income to pay off their debts and buy basic food like rice, Thida’s mother and sister took up work at construction sites and washing dishes at restaurants in the nearest town, around 10 kilometres from the home.
Thida was responsible for looking after her young siblings and doing house chores. She told us that sometimes she didn’t go to school because she didn’t have a school uniform, food, or study materials. The biggest reason though was that she felt insecure and embarrassed around her classmates. Thida and her other siblings didn’t play or join activities with the other local children because they feared rejection and discrimination.
In 2016,with funding support from The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Save the Children and local partner organization WOMEN started working in Prey Veng province to support and strengthen community-based child protection systems and ensure that children have access to high-quality preventative and responsive social work services. During the implementation of the project, Thida was selected to be the representative for the local Children’s Club in her village because she received the most votes from the Children’s Club members. As a representative of the club, Thida became involved in different trainings through the project, including sessions on child protection, and preventing domestic abuse.
Finally, Thida and her siblings started to receive support from the community. The local Commune Committee for Women and Children and Community Social Workers intervened and encouraged her and her siblings to continue their studies and attend school regularly. Thida received a three year scholarship to cover her school expenses from the Cambodia-Japan Friendship High School, which includes an allowance 240,000 riel per year (around $60.00 USD).
Once a victim, Thida has shown her capacity and now diligently works as the President of the Children’s Club. Her work and new opportunities have given her a confidence she never had before. She feels stronger and braver than before and is performing very well in school – achieving the number two rank in her class.
Thida’s mother Ms. Horn is delighted to see her daughter’s confidence improve. She loves to see her work and is proud of her daughter for having good communication with local authorities, and helping to teach the local kids with their school work. Even though Ms. Horn still struggles to earn a living as a farmer, she is happy to do her best to earn money to support her children to access to higher education and have better lives in the future.
In the future, Thida told us that she wants to be a doctor and government officer to earn income to support her family. She also wants to continue leading children to become a potential resourceto develop the country.