Som Sodyna, 37, whose hometown is in Takmau, is struggling to make end meets as a construction worker. She was a garment worker before becoming involved in this sector with her husband for about a year. Having trouble with her health is one reason why she quit the garment factory and entered the construction sector.
Despite the exhausting and extremely difficult nature of construction, Dyna did not give up. She is working hard for a daily wage of 20,000 Khmer riels. Normally, she assists one skilled construction worker, but sometimes she assists two to help her colleague out, that’s where the challenge begins. Sometimes, when urgent, she needs to carry many piles of tiles at a single time. Besides carrying tiles, she also mixes limestone and has to carry that as well. She said mixing limestone is tiring because she has to bend down constantly to mix it.
Also, aware that this kind of job is transient, Dyna wants to change occupation.
“This job is not permanent. If given an opportunity, I would like to do something else. I don’t want to be stuck on construction site forever.”
She wants to expand her knowledge and learn vocational skills – sewing and tailoring. However, she doesn’t have enough savings since she needs to spend daily on her family and repay a debt to a Microfinance group. Comparing her previous life with working as a construction worker, she said, “It has always been difficult. But in the construction sector it’s easier to get money because payday is twice a month.”
Dyna said the government and the construction companies should respect this sector and not underestimate it because many of the jobs are for unskilled labour. “Some people from the countryside don’t have any skills, so when they don’t know what to do for a living they will work in the construction sector. Therefore, minimum wages and some basic rights such as rights to paid holiday should also be awarded. That’s a way to help us, construction workers, especially female construction workers.”