What does it mean to be
a woman in the textile industry?
Around 80 percent of the workers in Cambodia’s fashion industry are women. Although they are the economic engine of the country, women are confronted with disadvantages due to their gender on a daily basis.
Lack of educational opportunities
Around one third of Cambodian women between the ages of 19 and 24 are employed in the fashion industry, where they only have access to jobs which require little knowledge or training. Further education and training are rarely possible. Their wages are and remain correspondingly low. Their low incomes makes it impossible for them to finance further education. A six-day work week means they have no time for it either.
Around 48 percent of Cambodian women workers say they have experienced gender-specific violence at the workplace. That includes, for example, physical abuse and sexual violence, but also psychological violence in the form of intimidation or bullying.
Double burden due to the incompatibility of parenting and work
In strongly patriarchal societies, the main responsibility for the household, children, and paid work often lies with women. After working at the factory, they have to take care of the housework and look after the children. The massive double burden often forces women workers to quit their jobs.
Economic and financial exploitation
Women workers from Cambodia are paid up to 30 percent less than their male colleagues. Employment structures in the factories of the textile and garment industry are often very hierarchical: women carry out the tasks while men work in leadership roles. For women, opportunities for promotion are limited.
Inadequate healthcare provision
Due to their low wages, many women are not in a position to buy enough food, which often results in nutrient deficiencies or malnutrition. Inadequate sanitary facilities in the factories also make it more difficult to maintain personal hygiene during menstruation or pregnancy.
Discrimination as a result of patriarchal structures
Women suffer discrimination simply due to their gender—at structural, institutional, and also individual levels. Over the course of their lives, special capacities, characteristics, and ways of behaving that are ascribed to women, who are then expected to internalize them. This process has a powerful effect on their actions, including at work.
Lack of job security and social security
Working conditions for women are often kept informal and organized in flexible ways that benefit the employer. In Cambodia, around 72 percent of women workers are only on temporary contracts.