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Helping female garment factory workers safeguard their health and future

Dalin, 30, is a Cambodian factory worker. She moved from Kampot province a year ago to start her job in Phnom Penh, and she is happy about her choice. However, she remains concerned about unplanned pregnancies, and how this event would disrupt her plans to build a good future for herself. In order to understand more about contraceptives and avoid unwanted pregnancies, Dalin decided to participate in CARE’s Chat! Contraception, an innovative behaviour change package developed by CARE that is currently being implemented in her factory.

Like Dalin, many other female garment factory workers in Cambodia fear unplanned pregnancy, as this would add a cost for their household and limit their ability to work and earn an income. Despite this concern, only 32 per cent of garment factory workers who are sexually active report using modern contraception. To address unplanned pregnancies, workers often look for advice and help from neighbours and friends, who may recommend the use of unreliable contraceptives and unsafe abortion remedies.

“The problem we can encounter, in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, is the need for an abortion which can be can harmful for our health and our life as well,” says Dalin. “…I am afraid of pregnancy, and abortion.” This fear stems from the fact that garment factory workers have limited knowledge about safe abortion practices. In fact, only 8 per cent of Cambodian garment factory workers are aware that abortion is legal in the country.

CARE developed Chat! in order to address this knowledge gap and support garment factory workers in making healthy sexual choices. Factories that implement the package allocate specific time for it during the day and encourage workers to join the training by stating the advantages it would have for them.

The Chat! Contraception package consists of three different approaches implemented together. The first one is a set of eight short group sessions that risk of pregnancy, contraceptive methods, emergency contraception, and abortion. Five additional sessions target male workers. There are also three video dramas, which tell the story of a garment factory worker who must face the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. Finally there is a mobile phone quiz, which challenges workers to test the knowledge acquired during the training sessions and the screening of the dramas.

Dalin has recently completed a training session, and she is already enthusiastic about what she has learned: “I know and understand birth control and contraceptives. I want to spread this knowledge to my co-workers, so they can learn and know how to avoid abortions.” When asked about the impact of the whole Chat! Contraception package on her future, she answered: “The advantages for me in the future? With few children, and no abortions, my family can avoid poverty.”

By working with Cambodian factories, CARE is providing innovative ways to fill the knowledge gap of garment factory workers on sexual and reproductive health. For garment factory workers, the Chat! package is a source of technical knowledge, and a provider of reliable advice on sexual and reproductive health. Currently 26 garment factories have adopted the package, and over 7200 workers have been reached. As testified by Dalin’s experience, the knowledge and confidence acquired through the various activities is empowering women to make healthy sexual choices, and helping them safeguard their future.

These activities are part of Partnering to Save Lives, which is funded by the Australian Government.

Learn more about Partnering to Save Lives (PSL) project >

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