Creating safe and respectful workplaces in the garment industry

Although 75% of the workforce in garment supply chains are women and companies recognise that women workers are key to business performance, issues such as sexual harassment, which disproportionately affect women garment workers, continue to pose a business risk.

Sexual harassment is a regular occurrence. A 2016 CARE survey in Cambodia found that almost one in three women garment factory workers reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace in the past 12 months. Recent research by CARE suggests this number may be higher (two in three in Cambodia).

Sexual harassment impacts businesses’ bottom line. Research in Cambodia estimates that sexual harassment costs the Cambodian garment industry USD$89 million per year in productivity losses. Sexual harassment is a global human rights violation. Sexual harassment is caused by, and reinforces, gender inequality, and it contributes to a culture of gender-based violence as well as perpetuates rigid gender norms and gender-based discrimination.

Particularly within developing countries, existing sexual harassment legislation is weak, often unregulated and poorly implemented. Within the garment industry, recognition of gender-based violence and sexual harassment is low. Even when there is industry acknowledgement of the issue, factories typically lack the proven, tested, and appropriate mechanisms to address and prevent sexual harassment. What results is an absence of effective laws and services preventing violence and harassment at work, and the continued suppression of women’s voices to report cases and speak up for their rights. Addressing sexual harassment is salient because it adversely impacts people and business. It has significant physical and mental health consequences, costs business operations in productivity and efficiency, and affects the wellbeing of all employees in the workplace.


To promote harassment free workplaces in Primark’s supply chain and influence industry change so all women garment workers feel safe and respected at work.


The project will apply factory-based support to bring STOP’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Package to an additional five factories in Phnom Penh, Cambodia by building the capacity of factory management and the sexual harassment prevention committee (SH PC) members.


Provide training 45 SHPC members including the human resource managers from five factories to use the STOP tools and materials effectively, engage factory teams and provide follow up support. Provide coaching support to the trained SHPC members to train factory workers and staff. Collaborate with Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) to monitor the progress of factories as a result of the training and implementation of the SHP policy. Engage the five factories previously engaged with Phase 1 of the Primark project, the new factories identified for Phase 2 as well as the factories engaged with CARE’s wider programming in collaboration with GMAC and BFC and relevant ministries in Cambodia in a convening event. Help the factories to present their learnings in a high-level event in Asia and/or an international event.

Project Outcomes:

Outcome 1: Garment factories have effective workplace mechanisms to prevent and respond to sexual harassment.
Outcome 2: Garment factory workers feel safe to report sexual harassment free from negative consequences.
Outcome 3: Increased engagement with key stakeholders to improve conditions for women working in the garment

Business Engagement:

The project will work with Primark to build a shared commitment to address sexual harassment in the garment industry. CARE will provide training to Primark’s local staff on gender and gender-based violence to strengthen their understanding of the core issues and introduce them to the sexual harassment prevention policy and implementation checklist used in the implementation with supplier factories. The staff will be encouraged to attend meetings between CARE staff and factory management to better understand both how the tools are used by factories in practice as well as the support CARE gives to ensure the implementation.

CARE International (2017). Cambodian Garment ‘I know I cannot quit.’ The Prevalence and Productivity Cost of Sexual Harassment to the Cambodian Garment Industry. Canberra: CARE Australia.