Straight from the Source: Matt

by Primary Voice 2 years ago
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInEmail to someone

Matt is a 28-year-old garment worker in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Photo by Sok Chanrado

I’ve been working in garment factories since 2004. It’s been ten years. During those years, a lot in my life has changed. I used to live with my aunt before I started working so I would do all of the chores around her house. Now that I earn my own income I can afford to buy whatever I want and I can help my younger siblings go to school. I have two sisters and one brother. I am 28, my brother is 26, the third is 24, and the last one is 19 years old. My two younger sisters also work in garment factories but our brother goes to university.

Matt’s room is the third door down the corridor. She shares this space with a few friends.  Photo by Sok Chanrado

Matt’s room is the third door down the corridor. She shares this space with a few friends. Photo by Sok Chanrado

I had a rough childhood so I want to forget about it. When I was young I sold things in the market like fish and meat. I sold anything I could. I would sell things for other people, too, in order to save for my siblings and me to go to school. We lived in Sihanoukville then and my family was poor. All of my siblings had to work to earn money for school at the age of seven or eight. In 2004, my mom passed away. That’s when I quit school.

Matt (center) is the eldest of four siblings. She has been working in garment factories to support them for the past ten years. Photo by Sok Chanrado

Matt (centre) is the eldest of four siblings. She has been working in garment factories to support them for the past ten years. Photo by Sok Chanrado

My father was a drunk. He always caused problems – swore at us or threw things around the house or kicked us out. Because of his abuse I decided to bring my siblings to Phnom Penh to live with our aunt. After living with her for about 4 months we had to rent our own house. The financial burden was too much for her.

When I was a child I dreamt that I would finish school and get a good job that could support my family and me. When my mother died I had to quit school to work because I am the oldest sibling. I was only in fifth grade. I felt such pity for myself after quitting school. Ultimately, I had no choice. Time wouldn’t stop. I had to look forward and take care of my siblings.

MATT_PRIMARYVOICE_IMG_1948

Matt (right) spoke openly about her dreams for the future with interpreter Seng Simouy (left) and researcher Mikaela Kvan (lower right) outside of her rental unit. Photo by Sok Chanrado

I must sacrifice myself for their sake. It hasn’t been easy. At times I feel really irritated and stressed but when my siblings behave themselves, and don’t give me a hard time, I feel my capabilities are limitless. Even if we don’t have parents, we still have each other. As the eldest sibling I feel a great responsibility to be a good role model for my brother and sisters.

Financially, we can only depend on ourselves. Unlike others whose parents are still alive, we can’t survive without working. I don’t have the luxury of living that way. If it were up to me I would not work in a garment factory. I want to open a small shop where I have the potential to earn income daily. With my current job, I have to wait until the end of the month to get a paycheck from the factory. By that time, I need to pay rent and it seems I have nothing left. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to realize this dream for myself right now because I need to support my brother who is in university. Once he graduates I could probably quit my job at the garment factory and open my own shop. I’m optimistic about my future. When my siblings were young, I worried they wouldn’t listen to me. But it turns out my siblings are good kids. I hope the future will be easier. Since I am having a hard time for their sake now, I believe they will think about me when they have jobs.

MATT_PRIMARYVOICE_IMG_1992

Matt’s friends often hang out in her room and relax during their day off. Photo by Sok Chanrado

 

This interview has been edited. It was conducted on August 10, 2014, outside Matt’s room in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You can read the original interview here

 

Primary Voice is a collection of primary source interviews dedicated to documenting the living stories of garment factory workers worldwide. It was created by urbanist Mikaela Kvan. To read more interviews and to get in touch visit www.primaryvoice.org


Comments are closed here.