How one woman helped restaurant workers have the same rights as their clients
Women working in the hospitality, tourism and entertainment industry in Cambodia perceive a regular and daily risk of sexual harassment in and around the workplace. Sexual harassment takes place in the context of deeply entrenched cultural norms, which punish women for failing to live up ideals of chastity and obedience. However, every women has the right to live free from violence including freedom from sexual harassment in her workplace.
The Solidarity Association of Beer Promoters Cambodia (SABC) and CARE have worked to find individual and outlet level solutions: greater confidence, skills and knowledge for women so they can protect themselves; and workplace level policies and procedures to ensure sexual harassment is prevented and responded to if it occurs.
Rina*, is a peer educator at the beer outlet where she works in Phnom Penh. She has worked
with SABC since 2015. Recently, she received refresher training from SABC on topics such as: culture and gender; gender and sexual harassment in the workplace and communities and legal services. She also had the opportunity to brush up on her facilitation skills so she can better share information with workers.
The training helped Rina to increase her knowledge on gender, rights, violence and how to protect from sexual abuse. She found this knowledge is very useful to protect the female workers and has shared this with more than 100 women working as waitresses, karaoke hostesses and beer promotion workers around where she works.
Rina noticed that the female workers were threatened to be fired if they got sick or requested to take leave. This seemed a reasonable request because they work hard and long hours, often late into the night. Rina decided to advocate with her outlet’s owner to request flexible working options and one day off for all workers.
“It was not easy for me to advocate for change but I felt this was important so I cooperated with other workers through a soft approach,” recounts Rina. “I met the outlet owner and explained him: “All female workers work for you to make more income. That is your benefit. If they were fired, you will find it difficult to find new workers and will also lose time to train them”.
I encouraged other workers to also help convince the owner and then asked the clients to convince him too.”
Eventually the owner agreed to her request but was not happy with this agreement. However, from week to week he changed and was happy with the decision because he saw his workers had renewed motivation.
Srey*, who also works at the same outlet, expressed her happiness about these improved working conditions. “I have never had permission to take leave. I used to work seven day per week but now I and other workers can have more flexible hours and I have had as many as two days off in a week.”
Rina wants to see all entertainment workers such as beer promotion workers, KTV workers and waitresses have the same rights as the female clients.
*Names changed to protect identities
CARE’s work with SABC to support women in the hospitality and entertainment industry is funded by Diageo.