As a researcher for The Green Net project in 2016, Chea Kesorphearom has been inspired greatly by the dedication of women who work on construction sites. Given her background from a middle-class family in Cambodia, it is hard for her to imagine herself being able to do the work these women do in such an environment.
“I think they have the mindset to accept whatever work conditions and pay they are offered. They don’t understand that when they do the same amount of labour as men they should get paid the same,” she said, adding that these women should be empowered to stand up and demand basic equal rights.
Based on her experience doing field work for both The Green Net project and previously at CARE, she felt uneasy. These women can only earn a daily wage for the number of days they work. She reflected back on her own life, where many people around her have so many more opportunities but do not value them.
For the older women, their dreams still persist but their realization is not close. For younger female workers, many came to work in the industry to seek a flexible work schedule and do construction work as a temporary job.
“Some women have worked almost 10 years on construction sites, but they still hold the same mindset and are just grateful as long as they get paid for their labour,” she said. In some cases, the sub-contractors do not even pay them on time.
She said, in order to help these workers it is necessary, to begin with educating them to understand they have the rights to work and get equal pay, as well as to have a safer working environment.
“Once they understand and start to raise their voice, the public then understands what these workers have to bear. It’s a fact that these women are building our country and playing an important role in the society,” she added.