A Glimpse into an Informal Worker’s Life in Cambodia

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In mid-October, Oxfam and partners hosted a visit by Belgian journalists from print and broadcast media outlets. They met with informal workers who pleaded for better social protection to raise awareness and to look for funding opportunities to promote inclusive social protection in Cambodia.

Nicolas Van Nuffel, project manager at the National Centre for Development Cooperation (CNCD), who accompanied the journalists, said this yearly media trip in Cambodia was a unique opportunity to meet people at the grassroots level and partners—not only Oxfam’s but also those of other organizations that received funding from CNCD and have been working on agroecology, food security and environmental sustainability.

The journalists were from Belgian public television (RTBF) and two daily newspapers, Le Soir and L’Avenir. During the two-day trip, they met the management team of a garment factory in Choam Chao District and garment workers working in a factory, visited their rented housing exchanged with trade unions, entertainment workers, tuk-tuk drivers and partners.

“I have mixed feelings when I see the living conditions of workers here in Phnom Penh. People making the garments we wear in Europe live in very difficult conditions but seeing the work done by Oxfam, partners and local trade unions gives me hope because I think this approach of working with people and helping them organize themselves is the best way to change the situation and achieve tangible results in the long term. It may take a long time, but I think we are on the right path,” said Nicolas.

Oxfam and our partners have been implementing a social protection program in Cambodia since 2014. They are currently working in 15 cities and provinces across Cambodia.

“Oxfam and our partners will continue to collaborate and encourage the Royal Government of Cambodia to continue supporting and extending the coverage of social protection to informal workers in all sectors,” said Chan Chhorvy Sok, Oxfam program manager.

Ms. Sor Sara is washing her clothes in front of her home. She is a home-based garment worker. “I want to work full time to earn more, but I cannot because I don’t have an ID card,” said Sara.

Nicolas Van Nuffel, project manager at the National Centre for Development Cooperation (CNCD), giving an interview to a journalist from L’Avenir.

Meeting with tuk-tuk drivers who shared their thoughts about the challenges they face in their work as more competitors enter the market. Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) helped them to access a Health Equity Fund Card (HEF) but they were discriminated against when seeking assistance from medical services.

An interview with a family whose mother quit her job before the delivery of her baby. The baby is now eight months old. Next to her is her aunt. Both of them cannot go back to work yet as they need to take care of the baby and other children of a relative living with them under the same roof.

The trip ended after a meeting with the National Council for Social Protection team at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

All photos: Naratevy Kek/Oxfam