Press release: Advocating for Women’s Empowerment, Miss Universe Cambodia 2020 Voices Support for Oxfam’s Maternity Protection Campaign

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Click HERE to download press release in Khmer

In the midst of a busy schedule, Miss Universe Cambodia 2020 Sarita Reth adds her voice to Oxfam’s campaign advocating for better maternity protection for all women workers, including those in the informal sector.

In mid-June, Ms. Reth had the opportunity to watch video and animation productions from Oxfam’s two-month digital campaign: “Every Mother Counts.” Both powerfully detailed the struggles many Cambodian women face balancing work and family life while having no access to maternity protection. Ms. Reth was moved and felt compelled to support the campaign using her rising popularity and rapidly growing social media platform.

“As a Cambodian woman, I was alarmed and saddened to learn that 90% of women workers in my home country have no access to maternity protection benefits just because they are in the informal sector,” said Miss Universe Cambodia 2020 Sarita Reth. “Cambodian women deserve better. As the pillars of our families and society, we should ensure that they are supported throughout pregnancy and maternity. Especially now during the COVID-19 crisis, all working mothers, including the informally employed, deserve to be protected by law, and have enough income to take care of themselves and their children. This will require providing paid maternity leave, cash benefits, and investing in affordable childcare services that protect women from having to choose between work and raising children. Every Cambodian mother counts and all women should be protected, including those in the informal economy!"

Ms. Reth has long been an advocate of women’s rights issues. As an actress, Ms. Reth’s first role was on the popular BBC Media Action TV series Love9. As the curious and confident Marima, Ms. Reth used her character to promote gender equality and sexual and reproductive health. Partly due to her stellar performance in this role, in 2016, Ms. Reth was awarded the Youth Champion by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Cambodia, the leading UN agency on maternal and reproductive rights.

“We welcome Miss Universe Cambodia 2020 Sarita Reth’s support for our campaign to promote maternity protection for all Cambodian women and mothers, which ensures the health, security, and dignity of women, their children, and their families. ” said Ms. Solinn Lim, Cambodia Country Director of Oxfam. “This campaign is a key component of Oxfam’s Regional Social Protection Program, which promotes decent work for sustainable, equitable, and inclusive development across ASEAN. As we have observed, maternity protection is a social protection that countries like Cambodia can no longer afford to overlook. Without it, women workers are more vulnerable to poverty and illness. With maternity protection, women workers, especially those in marginalized informal sectors, have a fighting chance to lift themselves and their families out of chronic poverty. This can only be good for society and the economy.”

Notes to editors: 

Maternity protection is an important fundamental human right and an essential component to achieve gender equality and support economic growth. It is important for enhancing the wellbeing, health and nutrition of mothers and children, and for ensuring women’s equal opportunities and treatment in the world of work. To protect women’s health and productivity and to ensure non-discrimination on the basis of gender, expectant and recovering mothers should have the right to take time off work for childbirth and recovery. Maternity protection facilitates women’s recovery and supports breastfeeding which ultimately facilitates healthy development of children.

Oxfam has been supporting Cambodia’s development since 1979, making it the first INGO operating inside Cambodia during the controversial post-Khmer Rouge genocide period. Oxfam in Cambodia works on a wide range of sectors from Labour Rights, Social Protection, Inclusive Finance and Green Economy Development, Natural Resources Governance, to Citizenship and Social Accountability, mainly focusing on strengthening grassroots civil society leadership, responsible business and financial investments, and accountable governance.

About Miss Universe Cambodia 2020 Sarita Reth: Sarita was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in English at the Vanda Institute. In November 2020, she was crowned Miss Cambodia. In May 2021, she competed at the prestigious Miss Universe beauty pageant. Ms. Reth is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in International Relations at the Royal University of Law and Economics. Ms. Reth has also worked as a model, a TV presenter, and an actress in a variety of films and TV series, such as the BBC Media Action's Love9. In 2016, the UNFPA Cambodia awarded Sarita the Youth Champion Award for promoting gender equality, reproductive health rights, and prevention against gender-based violence.

Contact information: 

Ms. Naratevy Kek