His betrayal was her salvation
Her husband controlled everything in their home, forced Sakan Soung to stop working and even decided when she could buy new underwear. “When he said his control was normal, I believed him.” In the end Sakan Soung’s husband abandoned her. But that betrayal was her salvation.
Sakan Soung has lived a turbulent life in her homeland of Cambodia. First she survived the terror regime of the Khmer Rouge, with starvation and extreme brutality. Then she was isolated and controlled for many years by her own husband. But it took a long time for her to realise that he was mentally abusing her.
“When my husband told me to stop working as a teacher, I thought I should do as he said. He said ‘men love their wives so they shouldn’t do anything other than take care of their husband’.”
Abandoned his family
The family was very poor. Sakan Soung’s husband didn’t earn enough to support her and the children. But when Sakan Soung wanted to breed chickens and sell cakes to increase their income, his response was a flat no. Whatever she suggested, he said no.
“He decided everything. I remember that I longed for money. I saw the neighbouring women who had some pocket money. Just being able to buy two small dried fish would have made a better soup for the children.”
Ten years later, her husband abandoned his family. Sakan Soung was suddenly alone with responsibility for her children. It was tough. So tough that one night she considered suicide. But when she saw her children lying there sleeping, she realized she had to keep battling on.
Could finally suport her children
Through Diakonia’s partner organization Banteay Srei, Sakan Soung had the opportunity to participate in a cow project for five years.
“I was happy and my cows were very productive. It wasn’t until my husband left us that I could support my children. I realised he had isolated me from the rest of society.”
Sakan Soung now gained an opportunity to get involved in meetings in the village, and although it was difficult to bring up her children, she at least had her freedom.
“As soon as I was able to decide things for myself, I managed to earn an income.”
As part of the cow project Sakan Soung attended various courses and over time her knowledge and self-confidence grew. She started helping with different administrative tasks for Banteay Srei, and eventually she was elected as coordinator of all the organization’s projects, which involve about 200 women.
“The most important thing was the inspiration and encouragement I was given. Without that I wouldn’t be where I am today. I really believe that the situation for women is different today, partly thanks to the training that Banteay Srei gives them.”
A failed marriage is perfectly OK
Now she lives with one of her daughters and her son-in-law, and Sakan Soung says it makes her happy to see them discussing things and making decisions together. Her oldest daughter lives alone with her children.
“I have shared my experiences with my daughters and told them never to rely completely on their husband. I told them they will be able to manage on their own if they have that kind of marriage. Marriage should contribute towards personal development. If it prevents it, and the marriage fails, that is perfectly OK,” says Sakan Soung.