Hoping for Better Future
Ms Tha Saroeun, at her rented house, collecting water for cooking. Photo: Oxfam
Rubbish piles high on the ground, barricading the room where Ms Tha Saroeun lives with her husband and six children.
The potent smell marks the unhygienic environment where her children pass the time they are not begging on the streets.
Ms Saroeun is nervous about her children’s future and with no money for their education the derogatory comments she receives at work about her family are all too realistic.
Working at a karaoke bar comes with intense discrimination and Ms Saroeun said “some people doubt the future of my children because I work in this field”.
However, working at night is the only option for Ms Saroeun to contribute to her husband’s meager earnings as a construction worker.
“ I want to change my job but I have six young children, so I can only work at night. I have to look after my children during day time,” Ms Saroeun said.
Ms Saroeun earns $70 per month and her husband earns around $150 but it’s not remotely enough to support the nutritional needs of her children aged eleven months to thirteen years.
A rent of $2.50 for the room is paid daily to the persistent land lord but money is sparse and if Ms Saroeun does not earn a tip each night she must resort to selling the vegetables she grows near the room for her family at the local market.
“ The room owner comes to take money every day. Sometimes we don’t have enough to pay, so the owner throws bad words at us,”
Ms Saroeun said she is desperate to change her job but there are no options.
“ I have no interest in doing such a thing [working at a karaoke bar] but the problem is that my kids don't get to go to school,we don't have enough money, and we don't have our own place to live. We don't have anything, ” said Ms Saroeun.
Though Karaoke remains a popular past time Ms Saroeun said she is receiving less customers as she gets older, which is further deteriorating her income.
“Sometimes two of my children are sick at the same time. I don't have enough money to get them to the hospital. I have to walk to the hospital and ask for free medicine,” she said.
Ms Saroeun receives support from the NGO, Women Network for Unity (WNU) that works to advocate sex workers' access to social services and freedom from violence and discrimination.
She said the support is very important since she can reach out to WNU for help if she is abused.
“ Without this support, I could not do anything when I have problems since I do not have money, ” she said.
With nothing and no one to rely on, and six children dependent on her, Ms Saroeun says she does not know what to do except hope for a better job and wage to support her family.
“ I would like any organisation to help my kids to go to school properly. I don't want my children to go and beg for money on the streets. ”