Nup Sara, who is just 33-years-old, has been working as a construction worker with her husband for about 10 years at many different sites. And now she’s based in Borey Piphub Thmei Chamkardoung.
Sara lost four children and hope in this maze of bricks; she cannot move anywhere far from this sector, saying it’s her only choice to survive. Before this, Sara was a garment worker; she quit due to her health and the conditions of the job. But following her husband to work at the construction site didn’t make her health any better. In fact her health is getting worse day by day as the construction job is far more difficult. She said she had five children, but only one daughter is left. The other four passed away at very a young age because of disease. When Sara was six months pregnant with her third child, she was still carrying limestone for her husband. “I think the reasons why my children couldn’t survive was because I had carried loads of heavy stuff. When I went to the hospital, the doctor said I didn’t know how to take care of myself. And it’s true. But how could I take care of myself while my husband was the only source of income? We need to help each other to survive.” Her life is always on the line; she doesn’t know when her life will be taken away as she is working in a very dangerous place. Once while working on a different construction site, a huge pile of tiles — about 100 tiles – fell on her, and at the time she was also two months pregnant, fortunately she was ok. “No one helped me immediately. Everyone was in shock.” She stayed in the hospital for only one week, and dared not to stay any longer because she had to pay the hospital fee herself. Neither the company nor the foreman were held responsible for the accident.
Sara mentioned that last year she and her husband used to cross the border to work at a construction site in Thailand, but were cheated and almost had no money to come back home. Since working in this sector with her husband, both have run out of luck – there is never any savings for the future, and they are still struggling to make ends meet. Sara and her husband sub-contract tiles from her foreman and she thought she would be better off doing that; however, reality is not like expectations. She has never received a regular payment from her foreman. Sometimes she didn’t get wages for two or three weeks, but when paid she received only US$20 or US$50. Sometimes she has nothing to eat, she even owes the grocery seller nearby.
When asked if she’s happy in doing what she’s doing right now, she said,
“I’m happy when I can work with my husband as he’s the only family I can rely on. But I am always concerned about my daughter’s future. I cry every night.”
She has realized that there is no future in this job, yet it is the only choice she’s got as she’s poor and uneducated. “I don’t know what else I can do. I will stick with this job until I collapse and cannot do it anymore. But if I had a little savings, I had a wish to open a motorbike repair shop for my husband.”