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Why am I here?---Simple! I want to write....

23rd September 1997, I was part of a group who is responsible for my cousin Em’s suffering. This was what I believed for so long.
That day, cousin Em was getting married. I was the little bride-maid whose role was to carry fruits along when the bride first showed herself to the groom and audience on the first wedding day. Just because I acted that role on her wedding day, I thought I bear the blame too for letting her marry a brute. I was so naïve I know. I guess it’s because I was too young.
What was the suffering? Well, many. She was beaten almost every day. He didn’t just beat but he blamed; he scolded; he cursed and made her feel so small. In short, he dehumanized her. I told myself at that point that I would never marry any guy. I was just five years old.
Images of the beatings are still clear to me. I was so scared. I really wondered why cousin Em married him and I asked myself why I didn’t question that at the first place. I also asked her why she didn’t divorce him. But there was never a valid answer coming out. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand the whole situation. Later, people were telling that it is normal for a husband to beat a wife. I said, “What?” I was in rage. I then grew my hatred emotion toward men. It was wrong of me. I was a bit over-reacted. But is it my fault? Nobody explained to me why hitting was considered to be normal? I then normalized hitting as well. I re-switch the power subject though. Unlike my poor cousin Em, I didn’t let a boy hit or even touch me. When boys approached me, I had my fist ready. I hit so many rude boys at my school. It’s because I was fearful. I thought if I didn’t hit them first, they would hit me. I thought I needed to be cautious. And I always was.
As growing up, I learned that males of any age have always been privileged. My community people set fixed gendered roles for a girl and a boy. I was repeatedly told what I’m supposed to do and what not while boys were never told or imposed any rule. They made me clearly see that male and female are two different creatures. They imposed the perspective on me that female are inferior, that we are not strong enough, that we can never be fully independent. They told us girls to merely focus on household chores because eventually we can just depend on our husband. And I said, “Yeah, and have your body ready for his slaps and kicks as he would after some time get sick and tired of feeding incapable you?”
I challenged the imposed rules and continue to stay in schools despite of various discouragements telling me to quite school. Yet I don’t know where I would end up if AUW did not exist. It was like one of the best days of my life to have heard the news that I got selected to come to AUW. Here, I’ve learned so much about everything, but most importantly I’ve learned about myself—of why I was ‘disrespectful’ to the ‘superior’ males, not soft like other girls. It was the male-dominant excessive power that intoxicated me and made me resist.
It is also because of AUW that I got to know World Pulse. AUW is the best nurturing environment to me while World Pulse opens up a bigger picture of the women world where we all are still struggling to get out of the ‘second’ category after men.
A lot of time, I ask myself what if I was not born as a girl. Or what if the cousin-in-law didn’t hit my cousin almost every day? What if I didn’t see many other women beaten, abused by their husbands too? Oh, there's another pain I've carried with me all along. One of my best friends was raped when she was just 11. What if she wasn't raped and later ashamed to stay in touch with me? Maybe I would not be this much radical. Yes, radical! I think I am.
It would be strange if I didn’t apply for Voices of Our Future. I want to write. I want to tell stories of my nice cousin and my best friend to everyone because keeping it to myself only, is unbearable. I also want to write about other unfortunate women who have been abused, oppressed, raped and even killed. I want all their painful stories heard so that people would truly care and start joining us to do something for women, to do something for change.


Sharontina's picture

No more!

No more of fixing gender roles, we are changing that already. You are at it and i wish you go ahead by writing and speaking out, keep sharing dear.


Merlin Sharontina

sarenkeang's picture

I will

Indeed Sharontina, I will keep writing and speaking out. It's been one of my life main goals so far. Thanks for the wish and encouragement.


Klaudia Mexico's picture

never again!!!!

Women must not accept anything that deshuminize us, My boyfriend cheated on me and we broke up. Since, I´m supposed to be marry at this age, many women told me I was so silly. They said cheating is the least you have to expect from men. Latter, my sister was beaten for her boyfriend, today her husband, and people agreed it was perfectly normal. I do resist myself to believe women have to be quiet before these situations. I'm not an object, I must be repected and cared for, Thanks for sharing. We´ll change the world so no more Ems will have to suffer any more,
Cheers from beautiful Mexico

Klaudia González

sarenkeang's picture

Yes, we'll change the world

I'm sorry to hear about your boyfriend's cheating. But I'm sure you're strong enough to not let others' words break your soul. Nobody knows us more than we do. We faced problems but as we stand strong, no more challenge can break us.
Your sister needs to know that beating is the wrong act before trying to change other people's perception. We all need to help her change this non-sense perception that it is OK for a husband to beat their wife. It's going to take time, but we will keep challenging this notion and we'll keep hoping for the best.

Indeed, we will change the world. The more other women will join us, the faster we can achieve that.


ayodele emefe's picture


Hello Sarenkeang,

First and foremost, thank you for sharing your story with us. It takes one with a strong desire for change to speak out and that is what you did in your story. Well done.

Secondly, you have shown a passion for writing which no doubt has shown in your post and I encourage you to pursue that dream because there is power in the PEN.

Lastly, I will advise that you take note of your word counts as per the assignments given when tackling future assignments.

I wish you all the best.



"You are a champion and a hero. Do not think yourself any less"

Yeah, I was not really making sure if I run over words-limit while writing, but I will be more conscious for the next assignment. Thanks for encouraging me to pursue my dream. I will definitely continue to follow this path of speaking out about social injustice and women issues through writing.


Fatima Waziri's picture

What a powerful story, you

What a powerful story, you were so young and there was absolutely nothing you could have done at that time to protect your cousin, you didnt know any better. Now that you know better, it is incumbent on you to use your voice to protect other women from going down the path as your cousin Em.


sarenkeang's picture

Definitely, I am incumbent to

Indeed, I was so young, and I felt so powerless. I told the elders to do something, but they said it's not their business. They said we cannot just intervene other family matter anytime we want. So that's right! we can't step in when the violence is already happening. What we can do is to start advocating from now on to the younger generation--raising consciousness among them that domestic violence is wrong. Period! So that hopefully, next generation will not carry with them the same wrong attitude and follow the same cruel behavior.

I will try my best to do that--to advocate to young generation through all these writing and speaking out. Thanks for reading the story and for the very encouraging comment.


RosemaryC's picture

Speaking up for women

Dear Sarenkeang:
I hope you will not mind me making a few personal remarks first, that come from my own experience.
I am a grandmother, and my grand-daughter will soon be five years old. And so when I first read your story, I wanted to hug that five year old Sarenkeang in my arms tightly and comfort you.
I too was a child who felt an enormous sense of responsibility for my family, and it took me a long time to understand that I carried emotional burdens that should not have been mine alone. So I hope that you will, too, hug your five year old self and tell her that loving your cousin does not mean you are responsible for all of the sad things that happened to her.
I was so touched by your story and the way in which you shared such deep feelings and so powerfully. Writing often helps me to learn what I am thinking and feeling, and I have a sense that this may have been the first time you wrote about this, so I understand why your story has so many words.
Women's voices have often been silenced in our world. It is time that the voices of women were heard powerfully and strongly, so that other women - and men - can hear them. As you reflect on your story and the stories of other women you know and love, you help make their voices heard - and that is what creates change.
Keep thinking, feeling, reflecting and writing - your voice is strong and eloquent.
With best wishes,

sarenkeang's picture

Thanks for the comforting words

Thanks you Rosemary for the comments and all the comforting words! Thanks for the hug:)
Indeed, I have reduced the amount of self-blaming through my journey of writing and reflecting and sharing with all very supportive women like you.
Actually, I have always written about this story but in another tone, in another voice. I even wrote a novel based on this story. Yet, I do recognize that I still need to work on being concise. I love writing so much that every time I sit to write, I'm not always conscious making sure I am not tediously prolonging my story, which means I often let it flows so freely. I will definitely have to work on changing this habit. Being more concise!

And indeed, i will always keep writing and reflecting and helping other unfortunate women's voice heard. Thanks for the supports.


Cali gal Michelle's picture

Sarenkeang- I can almost


I can almost picture you holding your small fist tight. Your presence is very strong on the page, so I'm sure stronger in person. I can see the boys turn in fright.

Like some have mentioned above, I, too, held myself responsible for other's state of being. Until I came into myself, and into the realization I am not to blame, and neither is my family. Horrible things happened that neither I nor they could control. I learned to choose a response most beneficial for me and for my family, then the emotional burden lifted.

My response is Hope. My response is Love. But I must choose it every day so that I am not consumed.

Thank you for your passion. For your presence. For choosing to be a positive force in our world!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


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