A Neak Leoung residence, Ros Theavy, age 34, came to try out her luck in the capital in 2009. She first landed a job as a construction worker at a Diamond Island construction site. A former seller near the Neak Leoung ferry station, she says construction work is much more tiring and tougher than her previous occupation, however, she adds that it can help solve living problems.
Theavy has just changed her workplace from Diamond Island to Borey Chamkarmon as the later provides better wages and working conditions. While working on Diamond Island, Theavy received 18,000 riels – 4,000 riels lower than her current workplace. Her duties are mixing and carrying limestone and sometimes cleaning as instructed by a foreman. We all have bad and good days; and life for this advocate is no different. Sometimes she faces challenges at work when she is assigned to mix five to six sacks of limestone, and on some days that can be seven to eight sacks. What’s more when she comes home, she does all the household chores such as washing dishes and doing the laundry. When asked if it’s exhausting and if given an opportunity, would she protest such norms? “Of course, it is exhausting, but I have to be patient. As a woman and a wife, it is my job and duty.” Theavy mentioned inequality in the workplace regarding wages. Males always get higher pay than their female counterparts even though the nature of their jobs is similar. She thinks sometimes men are not as productive as women. “Women are more diligent in their work; moreover, they do more than what’s assigned to them. Men are stronger; they can only lift the heavy stuff.”
After working in this sector for about eight years, it has become a simple job to her. Remembering when she just started the job. She said, “It was difficult for me at first. But I was determined to do this job. No one taught me. I learnt all by myself – I peeked at my peers because I wanted to know their techniques of mixing limestone and cement.” However, at the same time, she is also worried about her health and future.
Combined with her husband’s wages, Theavy manages to send home some money for her children and mother. As she has come to Phnom Penh to find a job, she leaves her children with her mother so they can go to school and get an education. “They are my hope and future. I am poor and uneducated. I don’t want them to be like me.” Theavy maintains a positive outlook on construction.
“Construction work is a fair occupation. Your capital is your labour – what you get is what you put – labour, sweat and blood – in. It is far better than begging. I am happy with my job because it’s what I choose. No one forces me to do it, so I am happy.”
Theavy will continue this job until she saves enough to open her own small business.
Theavy has a few requests to all the construction companies to distribute necessary safety items such as construction hats, footwear construction, and to increase the wages for female construction workers to be equal that of male.