Life and Building Safety (LABS) Initiative Launches Platform for Gender Equality in Apparel & Footwear in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Royal Kingdom of Cambodia, November 2, 2022

Today, Life and Building Safety (LABS) Initiative (“The Initiative”) launched the Platform for Gender Equality in Apparel & Footwear in Cambodia” (PGEAFC) at a workshop organized jointly with the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Platform will provide an opportunity for like-minded partners to discuss and address key issues related to gender in the apparel, footwear, and garment sectors in Cambodia, such as pay gaps, leadership opportunities for women in the sector, and working conditions.

Pramit Chanda, LABS Spokesperson said, “The Platform will offer a trusted, neutral space for different actors to discuss gender issues in the Cambodian apparel and footwear industry and to exchange ideas and insights on how the stakeholders can work together to scale interventions and accelerate actions. The forum will facilitate coordination, alignment, and action between all stakeholders.”

Ken Loo, Secretary General of GMAC, mentioned, “Gender equality and safer working Conditions are some of the most important elements for a rapidly growing country such as Cambodia. It helps to drive the local economy by providing a diversified perspective in decision-making. With roughly 80% of the garment workers in Cambodia being women and this sector being a key economic driver for employment, foreign direct investment and exports, Cambodian businesses will need to lean even more on diversifying their leadership team, investing more in upscaling the workforce and listening to their team’s voices.”

The workshop today saw participation from organizations including Cambodia’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, CARE Cambodia, American Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, Better Factories Cambodia, UNDP, Oxfam, GIZ, and apparel brands including H&M, C&A, VF Corp., Target, Marks & Spencer, and Gap Inc. The stakeholders in the sector discussed issues related to gender equality and created a roadmap for collaborative action to learn, integrate and coordinate across initiatives being taken by the government, civil society, and private sector organizations.

Speaking at the workshop, Arron Goldman representing ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia, said, “Ending gender-based discrimination, developing understanding around the challenges women face balancing paid and unpaid work, making sure women have a voice and are represented while helping develop skills and leadership, are is important on not only a business level but a societal level.”

Koung Sorita, representing Cambodia’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said, “We need actors from the public and private sectors to come together to solve the problem. Women are the backbone of the economy, and supporting women directly contributes to economic growth in Cambodia and provide job opportunities for Cambodian people. This in particular is true in the garment sector, where women represent around 90 percent of the workforce.” 

Sovattha Neou, Country Director – Cambodia, CARE, added, “The cost of sexual harassment is around 89 million USD per year or 0.52 percent of Cambodia’s GDP. This is a result of absenteeism, staff turnover, decreased presentism, and reduced productivity. Studies show that factories saw some 112,000 days where workers were absent due to sexual harassment. We also see around a 40 percent loss in productivity from victims of sexual harassment. Not only should sexual harassment be eradicated for the benefit of society, but the private sector should actively implement policies and practices to create a safe work environment which protects their employees whilst improving its productivity.” 

The workshop will be held annually with the sector stakeholders including private, government, and civil society organizations for continued dialogue over gender-equality issues.

LABS Initiative was launched in Cambodia in May 2022. It promotes safer working conditions for factory workers in the apparel, footwear, and accessories industry by assessing factories and providing a framework for their monitoring, mitigating, and remediating.

The Initiative will operate in all major hubs of Cambodia including Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, and Takeo, and is expected to benefit approximately 206,000 workers in 2022.