Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged homeowners to have compassion and allow their maids to obtain an education.
Mr Hun Sen made the statement during a speech to mark International Women’s Day, which takes place on Friday. He said domestic workers must be given a way to succeed in life.
“Some women have enough resources to have a maid working at home,” he said. “I want to plead to those women to allow their domestic workers to have days off – just like other women.”
“It is time to pay attention to those who live around us,” Mr Hun Sen said. “If a maid is young, allow her to go to school or take vocational training so that they can get a good job and earn more money.”
Von Samphous, president of the Cambodian Domestic Workers Network, said she supports Mr Hun Sen’s statement, noting that maids should be allowed to learn new skills.
“If local and foreign domestic workers can be taught new skills, they can eventually stop being a domestic worker,” Ms Samphous said, adding that she was surprised Mr Hun Sen addressed the issue. “I fear that his message might not have been strong enough, but if he creates a law or issues an instruction for homeowners, then it will be better for all maids.”
“I do not believe that homeowners will [willingly] allow their maids to study part time,” she noted.
According to Ms Samphous, there are about 250,000 domestic workers in the Kingdom, with10 percent of them aged 12 to 18.
A 15-year-old domestic worker in Phnom Penh, who declined to be named, said she hasn’t been in school since she was 10-years-old because she had to abandon her studies in order to help support her family.
“I wanted to study, but my mother did not have the resources to support me,” she said. “I can’t read. I have been working here for nearly a year.”
“For me, I hesitate about going to school because I haven’t been there in a long time and it scares me,” she added. “If they permit me to study, I will still reject the offer. I do not want to.”