On a warm afternoon I find a place to sit in the shadow. With me are four women, who are busy doing their work. They are sorting beans, placing them in bowls according to their size.
As I sit with them, they share their stories with me. One of them is called Mai Dae (40). She tells about her school period: ‘There wasn’t anybody who cared if you came to school or not. I didn’t care and I just did what I wanted to do. Sometimes I went, sometimes I didn’t.’ She explains how this behavior also upset her relationship with her mother, she would help her, or not, just as she felt like it. Growing up made her realize how she must have hurt her mother, something she regrets now.
Her neighbor gives the reason why most girls don’t get any further education: ‘We ran out of money at the end of the 6th class [last class of elementary school] and my mother told me to stay at home. When I was about 13 I went to pick tomatoes with my parents.’
It’s a story all too familiar for Mai Dae; working since you are 10 or 13 years old in all kinds of jobs, ranging from cleaning, planting rice, harvesting tomatoes to construction work (a common job for women in Thailand). Meanwhile, she got married around the age of 20, had two children five years apart from each other and all the while maintained a job. She was not stimulated to do something outside the village or study more. It’s different these days when many children study and are encouraged to pick a profession and so these mothers have to work even harder to be able to send their children to school.
Mai Dae is satisfied with her live she tells me. Even though she regrets many things. She might not have allowed herself to dream about a future other than the usual, but as that future is now here, she is content. Mai Dae concludes: ‘I’m satisfied, even though I’m afraid of what I see on the news. I got what I wanted, a husband and children. I’m happy.’