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Factory management confident that improving policies will increase protections for women

Un Sopheak, 40, has been the HR manager at a garment factory in Cambodia for more than six years. Her factory has been working with CARE as part of a consultation with managers in the garment industry to develop an effective workplace sexual harassment policy. With funding from the Australian Government, CARE aims to address female workers’ ability to access to protections from gender-based violence. To achieve this, CARE is working with managers such as Sopheak to help them improve their workplace policies.

CARE’s research has showed that women working in industries such as garment manufacturing perceive a regular and daily risk of sexual harassment. Sopheak’s observations from within her factory illustrate how pervasive this is. “When I did monitoring I sometimes noticed sexual harassment happening, such as male workers making sexual jokes or sexual gestures. I feel that it spoiled my workplace.”

Sopheak acknowledged that the procedures they had in place were not rigorous enough to prevent this from occurring. “My factory had a sexual harassment policy but this had some gaps. It did not cover much and was not detailed enough so many people did not think it applied to them or what they were saying.”

Sopheak was keen to join to take steps to improve the situation in her factory. “I joined the consultation to get more ideas on how to improve the workplace policy. I expected that working with CARE would help me to make this effective and to get more workers to report sexual harassment so we can address this properly. I also wanted to work out how to promote understanding of the sexual harassment policy with female workers who have limited education,” says Sopheak.

She is now developing an improved workplace policy on sexual harassment which clearly states what is classed as unacceptable behaviour and will encourage women in her factory to report this if it occurs. “The consultation helped me to recognise that female workers are often shy to report abuse. We all gained very useful, practical ideas to build trust among workers, such as forming a small committee.”

While developing this, Sopheak has also sent some of her colleagues to training to improve their understanding of gender and sexual harassment—training which CARE offers with funding from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. “After training, my colleagues shared the information they had learned and conducted awareness sessions with workers,” says Sopheak. She is already seeing the impact of these combined efforts. “Workers are now starting to ask questions about sexual harassment. Now I observe that when someone says inappropriate words people do not accept and tell that person to stop using that word.”

CARE's work to end violence against women is funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women and the Australian Government.

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