Child Labour

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

by Soratha Chan, CARE


Kunthea told me that he has just finished high school and wanted to be an engineer because he liked construction job. These words remind about a young boy, Nou Veasna, who I met earlier this year in Phnom Penh because he told me that he want to be a garment factory worker, instead of getting an education and a better job. So far, his words are remaining in my mind.

Veasna told me that he did not know any jobs except garment work. I was so shocked by these words and wonder about the future human resource of Cambodia when the young children cannot get better education, and end up their live as garment workers.

With his skinny build and olive skin Nou Veasna doesn’t look like a 14 year-old boy at all. He has left his hometown because his father always forced him to be a shepherd to earn some money for him. However, Veasna’s father usually used the money to buy alcohol. “He hit and forced me to guard other peoples’ cattle,” Veasna recounted about what his father did, when Veasna denied watching cattle and earning 1,000 Riel (USD 0.25) per day for his father’s liquor.

Although Veasna wants to go to school, he had never had the chance to attend one. He always went to the rice fields and guarded the cattle. One day, he decided to hitch-hike a Taxi from his hometown to Phnom Penh and worked in the city as a garbage collector near Monyvong Bridge. He was threatened by gansters for money several times during his two months on the street.

Veasna is now living in a social center for street children. He was sent there by officers of the social affair’s department after they saw him at the bridge. His guardian Sreypeov told me that Veasna screamed loudly during his first night at the new place. He cannot remember very well about his family background—even his dead mother’s name. All he can remember is the violence that his father had done to him.

There are many children that face the same problems like Veasna. Whenever I travel to Stung Meanchey, on the southwest outskirts of Phnom Penh, I can see a big garbage dump cover with the smoke, fly, and bad smell. In the middle of the flying fume, there are many children together with other old persons scavenging discarded material. When the trucks carrying garbage arrived, there would be children running after those junks. The children tell me they need to work for families’ income.

Option of lives

The information from the National Institute of Statistic in Cambodia states that children are working as baby sitters, maids, cooks, cleaners, gardeners and general house keepers – a familiar practice in my homecountry. 14.2 percent of the estimated 27,950 child domestic workers in Phnom Penh are illiterate, 22 percent of the illiterate child workers are girls while only three percent are boys.

The first day that I started working at CARE Deutschland-Luxemburg, Mr. Thomas Schwarz told me about making choices. To be a success person, you should create many options for yourself. Don’t wait for anyone offering you. For higher educated persons, it is not difficult have their own choices. But how about a child such as Nou Veasna? How can he have better selection if his comprehension is limited like this? When the children cannot have proper schooling, they might be at risk of unemployment in the future, especially in a developing country like Cambodia. Usually, lower educated persons are easily exploited. Their options for life are limited, too.

I know that there are some organizations working to help children with the problems. However, there must be more involvement from local authorities as well as the older people in the village otherwise nothing will be solved in time. We should not take action after the children give up their shcooling and work at younger age. In Saxony Anhalt, a federal state in the Federal Republic of Germany, there is a child benefit, so the children do not concern about the family income. They can focus more on their study. Parents receive monthly paid child benefit until each child is 18. it mounts to 154 € for the each first three children, and 179€ for each further child.



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