Where there is any discussion, workshop or campaign about garment workers, the topic will mainly focus on demanding decent conditions and better salaries for the workers. But when we ask about what goes on beyond the factory floor, the answer can’t come immediately and it can be hard to identify who is responsible.
Around 500,000 workers are employed in garment factories in Cambodia. More than 80 percent are young women migrated from rural provinces looking for an income to feed their family. There is a strong movement for worker’s rights demanding better pay in Cambodian garment factories and they have seen remarkable achievements, even though the salary of workers in the country is still low.
'No choice' is very common phrase from the workers who must continue to earn their living in cramped, hot rooms with many other people; eating low quality food; working under short-term contracts and working long hours; living under fear of rape or robbery after leaving work at night time... the list goes on.
There must be strong support from the state to ensure that all citizens - especially women - can live and work with dignity.
Since 2011, ActionAid Cambodia has been working with Worker’s Information Center to look closely at the safety and security of women garment workers outside the factory. We have seen so far that there are large gaps in providing essential services - like security, education, health and legal services - to women garment workers.
This is no small task and links with much wider issues like urbanization and gender-based violence. Also the existing legal frameworks have yet to accomodate the perspectives of urban women workers, who are adrift between the responsibilities of various government institutes.
Eradicating poverty means not only ensuring people have jobs and an income, but ensuring that the people can fully enjoy their rights to social and political benefit.