An independent woman

Enjoying the Fruit Success
Its been two years since the start of the pandemic and life has changed drastically for Cham Reoun Pok. Now the general manager of the renowned Malis restaurant in Phnom Penh, Pok is enjoying her 40s as an independent woman overseeing the pride of Cambodian cuisine.

Born in Battambang province, Pok spent most of her youth in Takeo province. She worked her way up in various venues in the hospitality industry — from restaurant manager in 2012 to operation manager in 2017, and now she is celebrating her latest promotion to general management. Supervising the daily operations, she recruits and trains the staff as well as inspects the accounting and marketing of Malis.

Mothering Autonomy
As a mother of two daughters, Pok wants to set a good example for them and hopes to provide as many opportunities as she can for other women who are looking to have a strong career and who would like to live self-sufficiently. At the age of 21 and 18, both daughters live in their own apartment in the city, a process Pok encourages more families to arrange.

Although many young adults often travel to the city to work and live on their own, most daughters live with their parents until they get engaged or married. It’s an unconventional path, Pok agreed, but she thinks it’s important for her daughters to learn how to be adults on their own. “I want my daughters to be independent when they make wrong decisions,” Pok explained. “They’ll learn better.” She still meets with her daughters and continues to give advice as they pursue their education and careers, but she also gives them the freedom to find their identities as adults without feeling the need to control their every choice.

Pruning Expectations
Looking back on her life, Pok often wonders where she would have been now if she had listened to every critic or to the expectations placed on her as a woman. Under Khmer culture, she was expected to put any career aside for the sake of the family. She sees many women who think they can only look after children or the elderly without even considering a career of their own. She was told many times that she could not do a job because she was a woman and that she would be expected to be devoted to her family rather than her career. Pok proved them wrong. Not only did she put in extra hours to complete the tasks in her job, but she pushed for her daughters to do the same. Invest in themselves, aspire for more, and seek opportunities in their careers.

Seeing her daughter thrive in their own spaces brings joy to Pok. In her eyes, they represent a shift for women in Cambodia. “Nowadays, the young generation changes their mind a lot, for example, they can move out from their family’s countryside home to the city to continue their study and at the same time get part time job,” Pok stated. “It means that they trying to live independent lives, without their family support.” Pok believes that breaking the rules of an outdated concept is part of every generation’s legacy. Smiling over a cup of coffee and a signature Malis rice cracker, she smiles. It was now her turn to enjoy the fruit of her own labours.

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