Sorn Chantha grew up as the eldest child of a farming family in Kampong Chhnang. Overcoming poverty and adversity to build a successful career in Phnom Penh, working in women’s advocacy roles and policy development alongside politician Mu Sochua.
After four years working with AsiaLIFE magazine, Chantha was appointed advertising manager three months ago.
What’s one of your career highlights?
Last year I was involved with Mu Sochua in a job completely different from my role today. I wanted to do two things at the same time, a job in the private sector, and a job with Mu Sochua working with young people to be a policymaker. The reason I like working with Sochua is the opportunity to work with young people who need a chance to live up to their abilities in life.
Do you think it’s hard to get young people engaged in politics?
Yes, exactly, because they lack confidence. Their parents occasionally are from the Khmer Rouge so they don’t want their sons and daughters to be involved in politics. Because of that they think it’s dangerous, although I think that’s not true anymore.
What other work are you currently involved with outside of AsiaLIFE?
I’m still involved with Sochua and various workshops for women. So with other women, we are still involved and we see challenges in society for which we can share ideas together. For example, last March we ran activities during Women’s Day.
Do you help to support your family?
I desired my family to be a different way than Cambodian girls. Cambodian girls, they send money home every month to support their family and siblings who go to school, but I don’t do that. I gave them some advice and some capital for them to invest or to build their own business and I bought them a house in the provinces too. I brought them to Phnom Penh to settle down because the business opportunities and good schools are here. My family are quite happy too because they have independence to decide what they want.
Do you find it difficult to go against what is seen as the traditional role of women in Cambodia?
To reach the level I’m at now, I’ve found it difficult, and I feel pain. I cannot go back to traditional life now. I see things differently and I accept that. At the same time people criticise me, even my good friends sometimes criticise how I dress. They are educated people but they sometimes cannot accept the way I am.
Do your family support you in your career choices?
My mother does not support me very much because she thinks that at my age, I should have kids and settle down, even though I still enjoy my work and my studies. On the other side, she loves me very much because I never make her upset or anything.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to do my Masters degree abroad where I hope I can study but also to get myself back to the environment of student life. I know that I’ll be a little bit older and it’s quite hard to adapt to all that. I didn’t have a high school degree becauseI left school when I was very young, but I finally got my degree in 2010.
When I grew up I was in a wealthy family, but my mother lost everything. She was illiterate, so it was hard for her to find work. I saw my mother’s mistakes and I didn’t want to step on that path. I believe that a western education is a great investment. When I go back to school I feel like I’m young and have a lot of opportunities coming up, and no matter what I lose, I’ll still have my knowledge to support myself and to give back to society.
If I’m a good worker for AsiaLIFE or a good worker for Sochua and share my knowledge with a high morality to people, I return something to society. It’s not about donating a million dollars or something like that. Education is the most important thing, and I love it.