A 41-year-old widow Chheourn Samphors was a traditional silk weaver at her hometown in Ks’ach Kandal District, Kandal Province before becoming a construction worker in Phnom Penh. The low demand and value of Khmer products in the market and the high price of the materials made her struggle to make ends meet as a silk weaver. She said she had no choice but to change occupation, and construction work was the first job on her mind.
Samphors has been working for three years in the construction sector. She first entered as an apprentice working on small individual-house constructions with little daily wage. Now she works at Hong Kong Land, one of the huge construction projects in Phnom Penh. Her duties are mixing and carrying limestone. She said working conditions in a big company are much better than on small private construction projects that she used to work because if anyone gets injured during working hours, medical bills will be paid for, unlike the small construction projects when workers must pay for themselves. Inequality is still common in the workplace, especially construction work. Samphors complained about getting lower wages than her male counterparts although the job and tasks are the same. “They think we, women, are weaker in strength than men, but I don’t think so. We can also carry the heavy stuff and do what men can do.”
When asked whether she is happy with her job or not, she said,
“It’s normal. No one will come to solve my problems anyway even if I’m not happy.”
She has accepted her way of life and all she needs to do is to earn enough money to support her two children even though she is concerned that this job is very difficult and might affect her health in the future. “I cannot abandon construction work because silk weaving cannot support my children and their education,” Samphors added.
In future, if the silk weaving market has more demand and values improve, Samphors said with eyes-looking-afar that she will consider going back to her hometown to start a weaving business again. She also wants the government to look at the construction sector and help increase workers’ wages, especially female construction workers.