A group of activists staged a flash mob in Phnom Penh’s Wat Botom park Thursday evening, performing the Madison and the cha-cha-cha to bring attention to women’s rights in the lead-up to International Women’s Day on Sunday.
“[W]e want to raise awareness in the public, especially young people, get them involved in our campaign. We wanted to do something fun and fresh,” said Seng Reasey, an assistant to the director of Silaka, an NGO that helped to organize the event.
The performance was one of three flash mobs to appear in the city Thursday, as part of a series of events put together by 17 women’s rights organizations that plan to petition government ministries in the coming days to take widespread action on women’s issues.
Among their demands, a pressing issue is labor rights.
“When there are pregnant women, the owners force them to work, and if they cannot, they just fire them,” said garment worker Sean Sophal, 42, on the sidelines of a meeting of about 100 activists in Phnom Penh on Thursday morning.
According to Ms. Sophal, many garment workers are hired on short-term contracts, making it easy for pregnant women to be discriminated against. And while women make up the vast majority of her factory’s workforce, their health and sanitary needs are ignored, she said.
Thida Khus, head of the Committee to Promote Women in Politics, a local civil society group, agreed that conditions at factories were a concern for many women.
“They are the majority of those working in the industry, but the majority of leaders in the unions are not women, they are only men,” Ms. Khus said. “Men do not pay attention to women’s issues, they don’t think they are critical to their negotiations.”
“Cambodian women are expected to be quiet, speaking softly, walking without making noise,” she added. “But right now, we are doing things differently, we are speaking out, we are demanding, many are becoming activists.”