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Women vulnerable at work

Panels highlight dangers facing female migrant and domestic workers.


SIEM REAP INMATES GET NGO VISITORS
Staff from the rights group Licadho visited Siem Reap Prison on Monday to distribute presents to female inmates and their children to mark International Women’s Day, officials said. Prison deputy director Tinh Proek said 70 women, including five who are pregnant, are currently detained in the prison, and that five children live there with their mothers. The distributed gifts included toys, clothes, bread, shampoo and underwear. Huoy Mey, a 47-year-old inmate, said she had not heard of International Women’s Day before but was grateful for the gifts. “I had inner happiness,” she said, adding: “I don’t know this day because I have lived in the forest, so I never knew it.”
RANN REUY

FEMALE migrant and domestic workers in Cambodia lack knowledge about laws and regulations in place to protect them from rights abuses, some of which are not strong enough in the first place, experts said during a series of panels held Monday to mark International Women’s Day, an official government holiday.

Tep Kim Vannary, deputy director of the Cambodian Women’s Movement Organisation, said young women from the provinces who travel to Phnom Penh to support their families are often vulnerable to harassment, discrimination, exploitation and sexual abuse or violence.

“Most women migrants don’t know about their rights and labour laws. That is why they’re usually mistreated by their employees and don’t know where they can get help,” she said.

Ya Navuth, executive director of the Coordination of Action Research and Mobility, said on Monday that many women do not have the option of returning home when they encounter rights abuses because their families are dependent on them for income.

She urged the government to strengthen laws protecting workers from the provinces.

“Until now, Cambodia does not have laws to protect migrant workers. That is why there are many cases of them enduring violence, sexual assault and mistreatment from their employers,” she said.

Yem Serey Vath, national project officer for the International Labour Organisation, raised similar concerns with respect to domestic workers, noting that this group is often undocumented and unorganised.

He said ILO officials would meet in June to discuss proposed laws for both workers from the provinces and domestic workers in Phnom Penh.
San Arun, a secretary of state at the Women’s Affairs Ministry, said by phone after the panel that government officials shared NGOs’ concerns about the plight of both groups.

A total of 32 local and international NGOs, trade unions and associations participated in the different panels, which were organised to raise awareness about challenges facing female garment and entertainment workers as well as domestic workers and migrants.

“Women are key actors in social development, and they are present in all sections of the economy,” according to a press release for Monday’s event. “Women represent 40 percent of the world’s workforce, while in Cambodia they represent 50 percent.”

The press release stated that workers in the groups addressed by the panels “are not sufficiently valued by society and are more vulnerable to discrimination, abuse and substandard working conditions.”

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