PHNOM PENH - Cambodian immigrants to the United States have faced many challenges as they adapt to life in the United States. For Cambodian women, that adjustment can be particularly difficult, as they leave a traditional culture for the fast-paced life of the US.
But for some women, this has meant opportunity. Two Cambodian women recently spoke to VOA Khmer, to mark International Women’s Day.
After she resettled in the US 30 years ago, Sok Sovannarorth was surprised to see how differently women were treated here compared to her own country. Where in Cambodia many women are expected to stay home, Sok Sovannaroth, who works for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, found herself in America balancing her profession and her family. But she said Cambodian culture has stayed with her.
“What I really appreciate about the Khmer values is that no matter where we are, we always stress the importance of interaction between mother and child,” she said. “No matter how little time we have, mothers spend time to educate their children about the value of women and our tradition.”
When she left her home in Battambang province 20 years ago, Lim Pharath hoped she would be able to one day benefit healthcare in her country. Now a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in the US, she’s looking for new ways to beat drug-resistant malaria.
“I’ve liked studying since I was young,” she said. “I always work hard and never give up halfway on what I start,” she said. “I always try hard no matter how difficult the issue is.”
She also said the support of her friends and family have been important.
“I received encouragement from my mother and grandfather,” she said. “I hung out with friends who liked studying. At work, I liked networking with co-workers and others.”
She also found learning a foreign language useful, she said. Her French and English gave her an advantage, allowing her to study abroad and experience international norms and cultures.