The aspirations of 20 Cambodian garment factory workers were advanced last Saturday when finalists of the International Labour Organisation’s “I am Precious” design competition were announced.
A cooperation between ILO and several NGOs, private companies and government ministries, “I am Precious” is now in its second year. More than 1,000 entries were received from garment workers in 35 factories across Cambodia.
The contest promotes self-worth among the nation’s clothing workforce by inviting entrants to take their first step into fashion design.
ILO coordinator Minna Maaskila said Khmer workers are as hungry for pride as they are for their salaries.
“I don’t believe it changes lives, but it gives them a positive, something to look forward to,” Maaskila said. “As one of the garment workers wrote in a letter: ‘This competition gives me energy’.”
In lunchtime meetings in factories across the Kingdom, entrants were encouraged to send in their original designs for T-shirts or dresses.
All 20 finalists will take part in a training course before three eventual winners are decided. Contenders will have the added thrill of seeing their designs become reality.
ILO is working with designers and tailors to have the garments produced in time for each designer to wear on the final day of the competition at the end of November.
One finalist, Sorn Kunthim, 24, has worked at Camwell MFG garment factory since 2003.
“The competition has really given me confidence,” she said. “It has changed me because I’ve started to learn skills which are useful outside of the factory.”