Educator Profile: CAMBODIA: Samphous Von – President, Cambodia Domestic Workers Network [CDWN] / Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Associations ([IDEA]
Samphous Von is President of the Cambodian Domestic Workers’ Network at our affiliate Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Associations (IDEA).She attended IFWEA’s Youth Globalisation Awareness Programme – YGAP in 2017. In this article she reflects on organising informal workers.
About CDWN / IDEA: Yes my organisation focusses domestic workers, and different kinds of informal workers like tuk-tuk drivers, Uber drivers, taxi drivers and street vendors for example.
What kind of worker education is done with the informal workers? We do workshops and training on gender and labour law like Convention 189, as well as well as organising skills. We have about 600 members in the organisation.
Challenges for domestic worker in Cambodia? There are a lot of challenges like they don’t have minimum wage, they don’t have the minimum standard of labor law standard so they suffer – no maternity leave for example. The minimum wage only applies to government factory workers.
How do you organise domestic workers? It is not easy to organize domestic workers as they live and work in the private houses – it is hard to get to them. Some of them work long hours, they don’t have time to join in the activities. Our strategy is to have an active domestic worker in that local branch, and you work with that domestic worker – they know and can work with the other domestic workers in the local branch that the organiser cannot reach. We will then work with the active member – if the other members want more details and to know about the benefits of the association, then we organise a direct meeting.
How did you become a worker educator? I have a high level of commitment to workers! When I finished high school I didn’t have the money to pay to go to university and my family wanted me to stop studying. In Cambodia culture there is a belief that it is better for men to study, a women doesn’t need to, as they need to take care of the house.
I decided to come to work in the city and pay for university myself. I worked for private companies doing cleaning and being a security guard and I earned 50 dollars per day. This was not easy as I had to pay 20 dollars to pay for university and then I only had 30 dollars which was not a lot, to pay for everything else like my room and food. Sometimes I had to send money to my mother at home because they did not have a lot. I studied banking and finance. In the morning I’d go to work and in the evening after work I’d go to school, and I got my bachelor’s degree.
I was organized by IDEA, and that is when I learnt a lot and got to know a lot of people. I developed and my family does not worry when I go outside because now they know I can take care of myself.
Organising and advocacy for workers in Cambodia – The government must still recognise Convention 189 in Cambodia, and we need to ratify it so that domestic workers can social security. Hey Boss! Hey Government Ratify Convention 189!
Gender violence at work, and in the home – workers who stay with their employer often experience abuse from their employers, but they do not tell anyone. Their concern is if they tell someone in the trade union then they cannot work in that job anymore. When workers join IDEA, they become empowered and they start to talk about their domestic issues in the family – like there is a husband or son who is abusive. The levels of education among domestic workers is low, so they do not know their rights at work – like the minimum wage and standards in a contract. We do advocacy with employers as well – we understand that it takes time for the information to get to the domestic worker. We advocate on social media, radio talks shows and television.
Can you tell us about your experience at YGAP 2017? It was my first time in Cape Town and the flight were long. I met new friends from other countries and I learned a lot from the facilitations. I also learned some strategy when I went on the internship in the poor community. I was worried that I would lose interest in YGAP for two weeks but we had so much activities, the time went by quickly.
My message of solidarity to worker educators: May we always have power in unity!