Chea Kesorphearum / blogger, researcher
Having a desire to find out about people and their approach to life – their way of thinking about the meaning of life and pursuit of happiness, landed me an opportunity to initially be involved in a project with CARE called “Labor Rights of Female Construction Workers” (LRFCW) as a Data Collector. I went to construction sites in Phnom Penh and saw things I had never seen before – two completely different worlds. The world behind the zinc fences and green netting wrapped around the scaffold on construction sites and some newly constructed buildings was a stark contrast to the world we all see from the outside. Not only was it an eye-opener, but it also became my inspiration to continue to figure out about the lives of those who are living and working behind those fences, especially the women who traditionally have been considered as weak. To the contrary, women are the strongest of human beings we’ve ever seen, both physically and mentally.
As a blogger for the Green Net Project, I am very proud to be part of the team, and be able to let the world know about the lives of female construction workers through my words. My approach is simple. I would like to know about the reasons why they decide to work at the construction site which is considered as one of the hardest of jobs, whether it is by choice or whether circumstances enticed them onto construction sites such as a poor livelihood, or a lack of education, factors that encouraged them to exchange labor for money. Furthermore, I want to know if they are happy doing what they are doing, and about their approach to happiness in life. Last but not least, is their vision for their own future – if they would like to work as construction workers for the rest of their lives or would they like to do something else.
Neak Sophal / Photographer
Green netting is used to wrap around construction sites when buildings are built. It helps protect the workers while hiding construction until complete.
Behind these nets, there are many stories we have never heard of. Having the opportunity to do research on the topic of “Female Construction Workers”, I have learned about their work experiences and living conditions. Though we met for only a short period, they helped me enter a world where I’ve never been to before.
For me, I think they are the strongest of women. They can do the hardest of jobs without complaining. They don’t really care about the job as long as it is legal and they get paid for it. After working eight hours at the construction site, they also face additional responsibilities; they need to take care of their family, cook, clean house and wash the clothes and dishes. They accept this as their obligation and not as a burden because they do it for their family’s sake. They know that their health will not allow them to do heavy construction work forever but at least, they hope, it will help them to pay back their debts and perhaps open a small business in their hometown, in the future.
I have sewed the green net onto their photos because I want to reflect their experiences, suffering, and fear through this photo exhibition. The 13 female construction workers who have contributed to this exhibit believe that these photos will deliver their message to the world on behalf of other construction workers.