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She was not alone, Bunty's Story*

Through the whole of Cambodian history, Khmer women have been compared to their ethereal divinity known collectively as Apsara. The subtle smile and beauty of the Apsara in the great temples of Angkor illustrates water and purity and the fluidity of the virtuous female. She is portrayed as virtuous, contributing greatly to her family and to the national identity.

Consequences of the decades of war and the Khmer Rouge genocide are many and one of them is the fracturing of Cambodia’s social fabric. Cambodian women lost their traditional role and status. Even though all of suffered, women have had to count more losses.

Today, many Khmer women, especially single mothers, remain shunned and marginalised in absolute poverty with little hope of ever improving their lot. She is unable to protect and provide for even the most basic needs of her children and she suffers greatly as a result. Miserable and lacking self-confidence she can no longer view herself as an image of Apsara.

When we met Bunty*, she had just been left by her husband. She was just 17, and when she announced her pregnancy, he panicked. He told her about his other family, packed his bags and left. She tried to prevent him from leaving, but he hit her so hard, she passed out.