Help Garment Workers Stand Up for their Rights

Sophea* is one of 840,000 garment workers, mostly young women, who support the multi-billion-dollar garment industry in Cambodia.

The women who work in these factories face low wages, long hours, and exploitative conditions.

Please help women like Sophea learn about their rights and stand up against exploitation.

Like many young women living in the provinces of Cambodia, Sophea had to leave school early. Her parents could no longer afford to support her and her siblings, so she left her family home to work in a garment factory in the city.

The working conditions in the factory were shocking. Sophea worked up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. She had limited breaks, and lived with the constant fear of physical and emotional abuse if she made any mistakes.

Sophea and the other young women who worked in the factory were not aware of their rights. It was very hard for them to get any information or question their workplace conditions. “If the line manager asks us to work overtime, we can’t say no. Even if we want to say no, we don’t have a local union or worker’s representative to help us, so we need to work,” Sophea said.

In addition to the long working hours, Sophea and the other garment workers endure horrific living conditions.

Because of their poor wages, they have no choice but to share rooms located in a complex next to the factory.

The complex is made up of rows of tiny, dark, and humid rooms with no windows. It is common for three to four women to share a room often not much bigger than a queen sized bed.

There are around twelve toilets for almost 1,000 people and limited access to medicine and clean food.

 

IWDA’s partner United Sisterhood Alliance in Cambodia run five drop-in centres across Phnom Penh. The centres provide a safe space for garment workers to learn about and advocate for their rights.

Sophea started visiting the drop-in centre for the English classes, but she eventually got involved in other activities as well. She started discussing common workplace issues with the other garment workers, and gained confidence to stand together with her co-workers and demand change.

Her new knowledge enabled her to challenge her supervisors in the factory when they did not recognise her rights or asked her to work overtime.

By creating a safe space for workers to receive information, advice and access to essential services, the drop-in centres help the women realise their rights and speak out, individually and collectively.

Sophea is one of the lucky few who has managed to stand up against exploitation. But there are thousands of women who still need your help.

Please consider making a gift this festive season to create a safer, fairer future for thousands of women garment workers.

*Names and images have been changed.