Upon returning home from Thailand, Cambodian migrant women grow their businesses
25 March 2022
Home is a feeling, warm like the sun.
But for 41-year-old Phally*, a Cambodian migrant construction worker in Thailand, her first days back home in Cambodia were filled with self-doubt and worries.
"I didn't know how I would be able to make a living, which was making me miserable and depressed."
Since March 2020, more than 265,000 Cambodian migrants, including over 116,000 women, have returned home from Thailand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With few employment prospects in her province in northwest Cambodia, Siam Reap, Phally joined a programme funded by the United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN MPTF).
The social-economic programme was run in the three provinces with the highest numbers of migrants who had returned from Thailand. The programme, implemented by IOM with support from UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO, provided reintegration opportunities for Cambodian migrant women through income-generating activities.
Thanks to the programme, Phally was able to start her own business selling soybeans and chicken -- which she now runs with her daughter, earning a daily income of 40,000 Riel (10 USD).
"Making soybean juice was a good idea for my own business as this is a trendy drink in my community."
In addition, the soybean business supplies valuable "waste", a by-product that can be used to feed her chickens, making Phally's business more sustainable. Phally also makes handmade brooms that she sells at a local market to supplement her income.
In Kok Chen, another village in Siam Reap province, 32-year-old Sreymom* shared a similar experience.
She and her husband struggled to find work as labour contractors in Thailand once pandemic-related restrictions started affecting businesses.
Upon careful consideration, they decided to return to Cambodia to take care of their young children and support Sreymom's elderly parents.
“We were away from home for three years, so it was a difficult decision to make, especially since I didn't know how to support my family in Cambodia,” she explained.
As she arrived home, Sreymom also received support from the UN MPTF programme to start her own business and raise chickens and grow vegetables — putting to good use the plot of land owned by her family.
“I was so glad when I was selected to participate in the reintegration program, as I wanted to use the grant to start my small business directly from my house and be able to support my family with extra income,” said Sreymom. “I plan to stay in Cambodia and focus on my children and their education.”
Sreymom recounts with pride that, initially, she only had seven hens, but now, after several months of managing her business, she owns almost 100 chickens. Her vegetable business has also expanded from cultivating cauliflower, morning glory, spinach and herbs to include an array of new vegetables, such as cucumber and okra.
"I am content [that] I can support my parents and my twin sons who are in primary school, without having to migrate abroad."
Sreymom looks to the future with optimism. She is finally at home, where her heart — and her vegetable garden — grow.
* Names have been changed to protect identities.
This story was originally published on UN Cambodia's website. Editorial support provided by the Development Coordination Office. For more information about the United Nations' work in Cambodia, please visit: Cambodia.UN.org.