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Its walls are made of scavenged wood planks and its roof of corrugated iron. The ground around it is a swamp of sewage and mud due to the daily monsoon rains. To get to the shack, you have to hop along a desultory path of discarded bricks.
The one-room interior is surprisingly, and girlishly, tidy. Two wooden beds sit on either side of the small space. Clothes hang against the walls in neatly ordered lines. Makeup carefully tied into a plastic bag dangles from a nail in the wall. Underneath one of the beds is a single clue as to who the inhabitants are: a large tub of oranges.
The women work alone and social welfare organizations say they are often victims of verbal abuse, police violence and gang rape. The shack is divided into three sections. Jira Phorn, a striking year-old with a stern face and a shy manner, lives with her boyfriend in the cheapest corner — a piece of floor covered with plastic sheeting that costs riel a night about 15 cents.
She tells it in a matter-of-fact, emotionless manner, as if she were a secretary describing another monotonous day at the office. One of 16 children from a farming village in eastern Cambodia, Jira Phorn was 18 when her father, a horse-cart driver, arranged her marriage.
Her husband left her for another woman two years into their relationship. Unable to face the shame of living as an abandoned woman, Jira Phorn fled to Phnom Penh. She found a job in a candy factory where she worked from 3 a. When she met some orange girls who told her there was a way to make more money working fewer hours, she decided to give it a go.