That same day, we spent the afternoon in the village of Taprok, whose stilt houses are scattered in the forest. We first visited a community garden managed by the village cooperative, then met with a group of 30 women, all over 70 years of age and war widows, in order to discover how their cooperative works, particularly in terms of micro-credit. Worth noting is the fact that the account is opened in the name of the woman, who manages home economics.
Seeing a woman in our group use sunscreen, the women thought it was a skin whitening lotion! This aroused great interest, since many women wish to have lighter skin. For us this was definitely an interesting moment!
On the morning of June 10, we went to Battambang, a city in a neighbouring province of Siem Reap. This entailed an unrelenting three-hour bus trip prodded by seat springs that were, shall we say, over the top. On each side of the road, red earth with, here and there, lean cows grazing on yellow grass at the end of their rope. Houses, all on stilts because of the rainy season, lined up single file, whether made of straw, planks or cement. In front of most houses, an altar was erected to honour the spirits of family ancestors. Makeshift stalls selling basic groceries had sprung up everywhere, with flies for company, accompanied by dangling hammocks, often the only element of household comfort.
In the afternoon of June 10, as well as on June 11 during the day, we visited two more villages, Phey Roka and Kampong Chnaing Muoy. There we found the same sorts of living conditions, with similar projects, including community gardens, chicken coops and microcredit. Families are specifically encouraged to send their girls to school for the long term. Women are also encouraged to run in local and regional elections.
Last but not least, it should be pointed out that everywhere we went, we were welcomed with a generous and authentic simplicity. Smiles were irresistible. A big thanks to all of you, the women of BANTEAY SREI and neighbouring villages. Despite difficult living conditions, you’re standing tall, and suffering seems to have led you to this love beyond hatred and revenge. Full of life as you are, you’re creating a brand-new world.