In Cambodia, less than 8 per cent of female garment factory workers are aware that abortion is legal. This often leads workers with unwanted pregnancies to seek unsafe abortion practices. Partnering to Save Lives (PSL) is working with garment factories to address this issue by providing workers with Chat! Contraception, a training package to raise their knowledge, awareness, and confidence about sexual health.
Pisey, 20, is a female garment factory worker from Kampong Speu Province who moved to Phnom Penh to work in a garment factory. Pisey used to be worried about unwanted pregnancies and its consequences. Similar to many of her colleagues, she is particularly worried about not being able to work and financially support a child. “When we don’t plan to have a baby but we become pregnant, we don’t have enough time and are not able to raise the child. And we don’t have time to work either.”
This common concern, and the lack of information on safe abortion practices often leads female garment factory workers to use unreliable and unsafe treatments. Pisey retells the story of one of her colleagues: “She told me about her pregnancy, which she was about one month into, and that she wanted to abort. She said that she did not know what to do. Her neighbour had told her to take a Chinese pill, and she asked me if it was good to use these pills.”
At the time Pisey had already attended PSL’s training program and was able to give some advice to her colleague: “I told her that using the [Chinese] pill would not be good, that it wouldn’t work and that it’s not safe. I recommended that she go the hospital or health care center nearby, consult with a midwife and ask to check for the exact age of the fetus. It is easy for a doctor to decide to use the pills or if an operation is needed.”
The Chat! Contraception training package offers garment factory workers three different tools to help them make healthy sexual choices, access reliable reproductive health services, and prevent unplanned pregnancies. The package consists of training sessions on contraception and safe abortion, the screening of video dramas centered on garment factory workers facing real life challenges related to unplanned pregnancies, and an interactive mobile phone quiz which tests what workers learned during the other sessions.
When CARE introduced the training in factories, Pisey was immediately interested: “As a woman, it is good to know those things. So my friends and I wanted to go to the training and learn.” Pisey found the opportunity to test her new knowledge particularly useful: “Out of the eight sessions, I liked the lecture on birth control and the “Know or Don’t Know” exercise. We knew some birth control methods, but we had ignored others, or had only heard about them from other people.”
While talking about the impact of the training on her life and of garment factory workers’ lives, Pisey also stressed the positive effect her new knowledge will have on relatives and friends, as she will be able to give proper suggestions to them. “The training program is good for me, my neighbours and my siblings."
In many factories in Cambodia, female garment factory workers still lack the basic knowledge to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. This often results in dangerous abortion practices. However, more and more factories are adopting PSL’s Chat! Contraception training package and as a result over 7200 garment factory workers have been involved in the training. Like Pisey, many garment workers attending CARE’s training have increased their understanding of the risks of unsafe abortion practices, and are now in a position to make healthy decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
These activities are part of Partnering to Save Lives, which is funded by the Australian Government.