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Program aims for safer workplaces for women

A beer promoter serves drinks at a beer garden in Phnom Penh.
A beer promoter serves drinks at a beer garden in Phnom Penh. CARE Cambodia launched a project yesterday to combat sexual harassment and violence against women in the workplace. Heng Chivoan

Program aims for safer workplaces for women

A new program launched yesterday has its sights set on ending the endemic problem of sexual harassment against women in the workplace.

A ceremony at the Hotel Cambodiana marked the start of Safe Workplaces, Safer Communities, a project run by CARE Cambodia.

The three-year program, which will cost nearly $1 million to operate and is funded by the UN’s Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, will engage with police, consumers and male university students to educate them on sexual harassment and gender-based violence along with women’s rights, CARE country director Stav Zotalis told the ceremony.

“We believe that empowering women and addressing violence is necessary for fulfilling their human rights, but also for helping a country to develop,” Zotalis said. “Together … we can eliminate sexual harassment and violence against all workers.”

A study conducted by the International Labour Organization and released last year reported that one in five female workers in Cambodia have been sexually harassed or “the subject of humiliating behaviour with sexual undertones”.

Establishment of the new program – which intends to reach a total of 60,000 women in the garment, hospitality and tourism industries – will build on another CARE project which promotes the safety of beer promoters.

Women working in beer promotion must consistently cope with the advances of booze-brave diners and drinkers, who inappropriately touch and try to pressure promoters into engaging in sexual acts with them, Srey Ya, a 30-year-old beer promoter in Phnom Penh, said.

“Some clients forced me to drink beer, and they tried to touch me or kiss, but I tried to avoid them,” she said by phone yesterday.

Ya added that some promoters give in to the pressure, fearful of losing business.

In a similar move, US-based clothing brand American Eagle yesterday announced in a joint statement that it, in conjunction with the Better Work program and Business for Social Responsibility, will expand the HERproject to Cambodia.

The HERproject, the statement says, creates education programs for female factory workers and raises awareness of a number of issues affecting them.

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