Sor Saream

The youngest of 13 female advocates, Sor Saream is 15-years-old and has been working as a construction worker since she was 10. Saream mentioned that her parents have been involved in construction work for a long time. She said, “we were doing good; my father was a foreman. Unfortunately, we got cheated by a fellow foreman and had to borrow money from MFIs (which we all call “State”) to survive”. Because of her family conditions, she decided to drop out of primary school as soon as she could, saying she couldn’t keep up with the lessons. Since then, she has started to help her family by assisting her parents in construction and washing dishes at a restaurant to earn extra money.

Saream used to do different jobs to help earn money for her parents. Washing dishes in a restaurant earned her 200,000 Khmer riels a month but the work was too intense. She had to get up at four o’clock every morning but wouldn’t finish until late at night. She worked there for only four months then her parents told her to stop. Besides, Saream also worked at another construction site with her uncle before coming back to assist her parents. There, she earned 18,000 Khmer riels per day and was responsible for tying rebar. But after several weeks she was again told to quit by her parents.

The youngest in her family, Saream, is the only one who works in the construction sector among her three siblings. When asked why, she replied that her older sister was in school and often gets sick, and her oldest brother just came back from Thailand, so she’s the only able one who’s strong and healthy enough to help her family out. She said,

“I’d do whatever I can to help pay the debts of my family even though I must eat salt, or prohok.”

She is not responsible for big tasks, while working with her parents. She is just her father’s apprentice. She helps him with mixing, carrying limestone, placing and carrying tiles. Most of the time, she can mix up to 10 sacks of limestone in half-a-day; she won’t have lunch unless she finishes the given task.

Saream thinks there is no future in the construction sector, so she has a goal in mind. She wants to be a garment worker. When she’s 18-years-old, she’ll go to work in a garment factory in which she thinks will help her family to be far better off.