Prime Minister Hun Sen begged the public on Tuesday to understand the predicament of female domestic help and allow them to have a holiday.
He also called for an increase in the number of women employees at government departments.
Speaking at the International Women’s Day celebration held at Koh Pich, he said: “When you don’t go to bed and you did not have supper, the domestic help still helps you. They are hungry too. Do you understand this difficulty?"
“I appeal not only to those seated here but to all who have female domestic help regardless if they are your relatives or not. They should understand them, have pity on them and let them have a rest."
“Because they are poor, some of them left their husbands and children at home and come to work for us. When they have good food, they think about their husbands and children at home. Do you know this feeling?"
“I think it’s time we should consider their feelings and have pity on those who are close to us,” he said, adding that he had seen, on Facebook, some female housemaids who were beaten by their employers.
Hun Sen also told employers of domestic help to allow the young women to have opportunities to get a better education or vocational training based on their needs.
“I beg and I appeal to you to be more understanding of the women who are working for you. If we could, we should pay them more. They then would send [money] to their children or their mothers,” he said.
Hun Sen encouraged companies to register with the Ministry of Commerce in order that their female workers could benefit from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), or identification card for the poor.
He told the ministries of Women’s Affairs; Labour and Vocational Training; and Commerce to collect data on the number of women in companies that have not yet registered.
Yim Sothy, the president of the Cambodian Domestic Workers Network which has 693 members, applauded Hun Sen’s recommendation and expressed high hopes that the statement would help solve the challenges the domestic help were facing.
“His statement is really good. With such support from him, my members won’t face more problems. There have already been 12 complaints from female domestic helpers in my association this year."
“Their issues involved harassment, receiving less money for food, being insulted, cursed and beaten on the head,” she said, adding that last year, domestic helpers in her association filed only eight complaints.
She said the usual problems they faced were not being allowed to have holidays as mandated by the Ministry of Labour and not being paid overtime. She said the other problem was that they could not get NSSF.
Earlier, Hun Sen said 64 per cent of small and medium business owners were women. The percentage of girls at primary school, secondary school, and high school were as high as that of boys. But the number of female students dropped at higher education, he said.
He urged the relevant ministries to raise the value of women by controlling improper activities online, preventing gender-based violence, and online exploitation of women and girls.
Hun Sen told the ministries of Fine Arts, and Information and the media to help educate, strengthen and increase social morality and the value of women through educational media programmes about the characters of Khmer women and Khmer customs.
He also called for an increase in the number of women in government departments, whether as the head or deputy head of the departments.
“I still want to stress that even though they were appointed to those positions, there must be work for them to do."
“Don’t just appoint them to fulfil the obligation and showing that ‘my institution has very good gender quality’. But in fact, women cannot participate in making decisions in that institution,” he said.