Improving the health of women textile workers in Cambodia and providing childcare for their children

Present background

In Cambodia, the garment industry accounts for 80% of exports. Over 15,1 million inhabitants, more than 1 million are part of it.

Workers in this industry are mostly women, spending 11 hours a day and 6 days a week at work.

Few of them have regular medical consultations, receive information about sexual and reproductive health or carry out pregnancy monitoring.

Another difficulty : With women’s arrival in the formal labour market, child care demand has exploded. However, there are few public nurseries and one month into a private nursery can represent half of a worker monthly income (180$).

Thus, in Cambodia, only 21% of children under the age of 3 are welcomed in facilities supervised by early childhood professionals.

The law requires companies with more than 100 employees to offer childcare facilities. In September 2019, we published a study about employer-supported childcare in Cambodia.

Main lesson: only 13 of the 700 factories in the country comply with the law and offer nurseries to their employees.

An inventory of the situation which is at the origin of our project “Enterprise-Based Social Services” (EBSS).

Our project

With our pilot project “Enterprise-Based Social Services” (EBSS), we would like to contribute to a competitive and socially responsible development of the textile sector by improving the working conditions of female workers and the care of their children.

6 factories from the garment industry are currently involved : Great Peace, Orient International, Dali, Jacka Shoes, Shui Yat et Cerie.

The project acts on 2 levels :

  • Health (Kampong Speu province)

In 2017, we were part of a task force to develop national standards for factory infirmaries. We worked with the Ministries of Health and Labor, USAID, UNFPA and 7 other NGOs. In December 2017, the first national standards were published.

The upgrading of factory infirmaries has enabled 362 female workers to benefit from pregnancy monitoring, which is essential as many of them work until the end of their pregnancy.

At the same time, we also trained 61 female volunteer workers, who became “health ambassadors“, to raise awareness on maternal and reproductive health among their colleagues. More than 9,800 female workers have thus been made aware of gynaecological and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as contraceptive methods. We celebrate their commitment every year with the Peer Educator Day. In 2020, 100 participants gathered for this “Peer Educator Day”.

The Human Resources Departments are also gradually getting involved as 3 managers have joined their female employees to participate in awareness-raising in the factories.

And in December 2019, PE&D was able to co-organise a national seminar, chaired by the Cambodian Minister of Labour, to propose ways to improve occupational health.

  • Nurseries (Phnom Penh)

Not being able to provide childcare for their children is an obstacle to women’s emancipation. We have therefore decided to devote the second part of the project to the setting up of quality and financially accessible nurseries.

Starting in 2017, we worked alongside the Ministries of Education, Labor and Health to draw up the first standard for company daycare centers in Cambodia.

After the installation in May 2019 of a pilot day-care center within the Trax Apparel factory, we decided to adapt the project to best meet the needs of female workers.

Over the next three years, we are launching the creation of 22 day-care centers in the villages where female workers live. Each day-care center will be able to accommodate 25 children between the ages of 6 and 36 months, and the buildings will comply with environmental and health standards to guarantee a safe space that is conducive to the children’s development. The factories will pay part of the registration fees to make the day-care centres more accessible to female workers.

Convinced that the involvement of the villagers is essential to the project’s sustainability, we have thought about a model for a community day-care center that will include awareness-raising sessions open to all, around child nutrition or domestic and educational violence.

And in order to train more early childhood professionals and welcome children in the best possible conditions, the first training curriculum for nursery assistants has been developed.

Finally, Kidora, our new social day-care center in Phnom Penh, should open its doors in 2020. 40 children from 6 months to 4 years old will be welcomed there 5 days a week. It will be paying but accessible, and will be aimed in particular at children from the emerging Cambodian class. This is a rather special day-care center as we hope that the profits will allow the creation of a training centre dedicated to early childhood. 

Our beneficiaries

  • 61 peer-educator workers trained in health counselling
  • 9,800 women workers sensitized to contraception but also to hygiene and nutrition for their children thanks to peer educators
  • 6 infirmaries brought up to standard
  • 362 pregnant workers receiving monthly pregnancy monitoring
  • 64 children from 1 to 5 years old welcomed in the pilot nursery of the Trax Apparel factory
  • 22 nurseries will be set up over the next three years in the workers’ villages to accommodate an additional 550 children (25 per nursery)
  • 40 children soon to be welcomed in Kidora, our social nursery

Learn more

Phnom Penh city and Kampong Speu province, Cambodia
Since April 2017

Our Partners

  • Local partner :

Krousar Yoeung

  • Financial partners :

French Development Agency

People & Baby Foundation

Weave Our Future Foundation

Porticus Foundation

Moreau Foundation

OECD staff association

World Bank