Chok Yeoun

Chok Yeourn, whose hometown is in Phnom Penh Thmey, right in the capital of the Kingdom, has become a construction worker with her husband, not because it was her choice, but for the needs of her seven-member family.

Before she became a construction worker, Yeourn sold fish and vegetables found in and around the lake at the market which ended in failure. After a while, she started selling fruit and vegetables from her bike; she cycled around and stopped at different markets in Phnom Penh. But she is not very fit and this made it impossible for her to cycle around for hours every day and business was not very profitable so she joined her husband working on a construction site. She started as an apprentice mixing limestone and cement, carrying sand and cement bags to mix, and carrying tiles; sometimes she was commanded to stand on the scaffolding to apply the mixed limestone in between tile-holes. It was exhausting and dangerous for her that’s why she’s decided to switch to cleaning which is lighter work. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, she still has to carry construction waste down from high floors to the rubbish bin, and clean filthy places. When asked, “isn’t construction work difficult for you?”. She replied,

“Of course, it makes me exhausted physically, but in return, I don’t have to worry about being in debt. I just have to exchange my labor for money to afford my family.”

Yeourn earns $6.00 per day about 24,000 Khmer riel. She said she is not satisfied with what she’s doing, but she has to do her best for herself and especially for her family. She said “If I don’t work in that field, I don’t have anything to support my family.” She doesn’t want her children to follow her and her husband’s paths. She wants them to get a higher education and get good jobs, so she sends them to school. However, only her youngest kids are in school now. Her daughter dropped out because she couldn’t bear seeing her parents struggling just to let her go to school. Yeourn tried her best to convince her daughter to continue until she finished high school, but she didn’t listen, because she wanted to help the family. Yeourn said her daughter is very clever. She regretted that her daughter had to quit school because of the family’s condition.

Despite failing in business Yeourn isn’t going to give up and she still has her own future plan. She doesn’t want to work in construction for the rest of her life. After saving enough money, she wants to open a small business, again. She wants to sell vegetables at market and also run a small grocery store and sell porridge from home.