A Woman’s Struggle with Covid-19: a Story of Survival, Strength and Hope

Srey Touch, 37 year old, and her two kids have received support so they can rent a small room now after staying months under bridge.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has severely affected Srey Touch’s livelihood and her family. Soon after the pandemic hit, she lost her job as an entertainment worker and without any other income source, she and her family was pushed into homelessness. Bridge has become a temporary shelter for her whole family. Together with her two children, Srey Touch lived under bridge for months and survived with the help from neighbors’ and commuters’ food donations.

After she lost her job, Srey Touch and her other co-workers in entertainment service, who also lost their jobs, tried hard to request out-of-work subsidies from the government to support them during this difficult time. Unfortunately, their desperate appeals have been unsuccessful as the support scheme launched by the government to respond to the crisis covers only workers in most severely affected sectors, such as garment and tourism. In addition to these unfortunate challenges, Srey Touch also experienced domestic violence, was violently abused by her own husband when he decided to leave her and two children for new wife. ‘’Now I do not think much. I have only love for my two children and keep fighting for their future,’’ Srey Touch said.   

Strength and determination

Srey Touch has shown incredible strength and determination during this very difficult time in her life.  The external support from people around her and her community have been extremely important for her to continue her journey. Her decision to be a member of Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (CFSWF) has provided her tremendous hope. In addition to the financial support, the organization supports her emotionally to continue her fight. Despite of low education, Srey Touch has managed to grasp new knowledge from trainings and has strengthened her confidence to speak up against unfairness and injustice in particularly against domestic violence that she herself experienced.  

Srey Touch's both children are unable to attend school due to their living condition and lack of official documents for school resigster. 

‘‘I have received a lot of new knowledge from various trainings by CFSWF. I’ve learnt about women rights, gender-based violence and social protection. It provides me concrete foundation to speak up for my right as a woman and worker. I’m happy that I can use this knowledge to support other co-workers who are working in entertainment sector like me.’’ Srey Touch said.

Srey Touch’s experience as a victim of domestic violence and the challenges she faced due to Covid-19 have made her more resilient. She has used the knowledge she gained from CFSWF to empower herself to be a union activist. She is now not only working to protect her rights, but also supporting other women workers rights. Srey Touch has actively supported peaceful gatherings with workers to demand decent work, social protection and support from authorities.     

With immediate support of Belgian Development Cooperation through Oxfam and other partners, CFSWF has been able to support Srey Touch temporarily to have a decent living. She is now able to feed her two children with nutritious meals and have a decent shelter.

‘‘I am very thankful for the immediate support and kindness from all friends and donors to save my life and my children’s lifes during difficult time. I really wish to see my children have permanent decent shelter and be able to go to school.’’ Srey Touch said.

Immediate support that Srey Touch and her family have received is part of a joint effort of Oxfam, NGOs, unions and donors to help vulnerable population and marginalised workers in Cambodia like Srey Touch during Covid-19. Oxfam is also supporting unions like CFSWF to continue their work with local authority to ensure that vulnerable population like Srey Touch’s family registered into government’s ID-poor system. The system that is designed to protect poor households in Cambodia and provide social assistance in term of food support and health care.

The story written by Visal Tan ,Social Protection Program Coordinator

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Thanks to financial support from DGD of Belgium, Oxfam and it partners including: CCAWDU, CCFC, CFSWF, IDEA, and YRDP are implementing the project Inclusive and Equitable Social Protection for Marginalised Informal Workers in ASEAN 2017-2021 to increase, workers’ economic and social resilience, in particular women, by influencing the relevant decision makers to expand, finance and deliver social protection more effectively and equitably.