By: Krong Chanthou, ActionAid Cambodia
Sonita is 40 years’ old and works as a beer promoter in a KTV (karaoke bar) in Cambodia. Like many entertainment workers in Cambodia, she has suffered long working hours, low pay, poor working conditions, violence and sexual harassment at work.
Sonita and the other beer promoters at the KTV are treated badly at work; they are constantly harassed by customers and are often forced to drink alcohol. They also face stigma and discrimination from the wider society. Sonita notes that for many women there are few alternatives, as a lack of education makes it difficult to find other work.
Frustrated by their situation, Sonita and her colleagues approached the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation (CFSWF), a partner of ActionAid Cambodia. CFSWF supports beer promoters to come together to prevent violence and harassment at work. The women were helped by CFSWF and received training on women’s rights, gender-based violence, health and safety, labour laws and social security benefits.
We were like frogs in a dark well but when we engaged CFSWF we were no longer alone in fighting harassment at the workplace
After the training, Sonita shared her knowledge with other colleagues and together they successfully lobbied their employer to pay social security contributions for 26 beer promoters.
Despite some improvements, there is still much to be done both in and outside the workplace. Entertainment workers like Sonita usually leave work late at night and the lack of quality public services and infrastructure mean that women feel very vulnerable. The streets are dark and empty, and women are particularly at risk of violence. Therefore, Sonita and her friends are now demanding more. They are participating in forums with local authorities and calling for quality public services such as streetlights and street security.
I am very happy as I can help myself and other girls in the KTV overcome violence and harassment from men
Sonita’s work with other Cambodian beer promoters to end violence against women in the world of work is an example during this #16days of activism.
The 16 Days of Activism campaign is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and brings together over 6,000 organizations in 187 countries to call for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence. Read more about it: www.16dayscampaign.org