“The workers in our factory would use words which are sexual; for example as a joke men ask women how much it would cost to have sex with them. The women often get angry about this.” This description by Sreyneang, the Compliance Officer at a Cambodian garment factory, shows the situation faced by many women in Phnom Penh. With support from CARE, her factory is changing attitudes so that all workers understand that sexual harassment is not acceptable.
CARE offered training for HR staff on gender-based violence and then worked directly with factories to develop a sexual harassment policy for their workplace which fits with their internal regulations. The factory now shares this policy with workers so that they clearly understand what is inappropriate behaviour at work.
“Joining training with CARE helped me to understand about gender-based violence and inspired me to want to do something about this,” says Sreyneang. “Now all new workers and our supervisors get training on what actions we consider to be sexual harassment. We tell them that this can include rude words, inappropriate touching or sending sexual text messages. Many of the workers are surprised that verbal abuse is also harassment.”
The Personnel Manager at Sreyneang’s factory believes that preventing harassment is important for both their workers and their business.
“Sometimes women are upset about the words used by men in the factory. They may want to take leave or find it hard to do their job well. Without a clear policy on this, these types of problems would take up a lot of time for HR staff to resolve or they might have to recruit new workers if the woman left because of harassment.
“Before we worked with CARE we told workers about appropriate behaviour informally but this was not very effective. Now we have specific messages to share and a clear workplace policy, it is easy to show our workers that this behaviour is not acceptable in our factory.”
Sreyneang agrees with this. “Since the training started and we added posters saying that sexual harassment is not acceptable, we have seen less people using inappropriate words,” she says. “When workers understand our policy, they know that if they misbehave they will face consequences.”
The factory joined activities for the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. Lunchtime games, music and messages showed workers that the factory has a clear stance on sexual harassment and encouraged people to listen, support and report when they encounter sexual harassment.
“We want our workers to respect each other and behave appropriately. We want bad behaviour to be reported so it can be dealt with properly. When people are not angry or upset, they work better; this improves our production and everyone in the factory is happier."
CARE's work to end violence against women in Cambodia is funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women and the Australian Government.