Cambodia Investment Review

Cambodia’s Apparel and Footwear Sector Focuses on Gender Equality & Leadership at 2nd Annual LABS Initiative Meeting

Cambodia’s Apparel and Footwear Sector Focuses on Gender Equality & Leadership at 2nd Annual LABS Initiative Meeting

Cambodia Investment Review

The Life and Building Safety (LABS) Initiative has organized its 2nd Annual Platform meeting, aiming to address and promote gender equality in Cambodia’s apparel and footwear industries. The event was supported by IDH and managed to convene an impressive roster of over 40 organizations, including both governmental and non-governmental bodies, trade associations, and major global brands.

Read more: Life and Building Safety (LABS) initiative launches platform for gender equality in Cambodia’s apparel and footwear sectors

Representatives from Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor & Vocational Training and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs were in attendance. The meeting also drew members from diplomatic missions, such as the Embassy of Australia and the Embassy of the United States in Cambodia. Additionally, notable non-governmental organizations like GIZ, Oxfam, UNDP, UNFPA, and SwissContact participated, along with the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia program.

Upskilling Women To Prepare Them For Leadership Roles

The key stakeholders gathered at the event focused their discussions on two main themes. The first, “Breaking the Social Norms for Gender Equality,” examined how societal norms contribute to the gender pay gap and limited opportunities for women in the industry. The second, “the Importance of Women in Leadership Roles for Safety in the Factory,” explored how increasing the presence of women in leadership positions could positively impact overall safety and working conditions within factories.

2nd Annual LABS Initiative Meeting hosted in Phnom Penh on 25 October 2023.

Nhean Sochetra, the Director General of Cambodia’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs, gave her endorsement to the outcomes of the meeting. She stated, “The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is welcoming all inputs from the different organizations that participated in the gender workshop for equality. We are keen on implementing some of the key points that were brought up in the presentations and discussions from all participants.”

In a collective voice, participants expressed the urgent need for upskilling women to prepare them for leadership roles within the industry. As part of this collective resolution, there was an agreement to create a network of women role models. This network aims to actively mentor women workers in the sector, providing them with the skills and confidence needed to aspire for higher-ranking positions. In addition to the mentorship program, attendees agreed to organize future workshops that would make the business case for promoting women in leadership roles, thereby influencing industry-wide practices.

Pledged To Continue Its Role As A Neutral And Trusted Space

The Platform for Gender Equality in Apparel & Footwear in Cambodia (PGEAFC) pledged to continue its role as a neutral and trusted space where various actors from diverse backgrounds can engage in meaningful discussions, share their insights, and identify opportunities for collective action.

Launched in Cambodia in May 2022, the LABS Initiative is not a newcomer to the quest for improving working conditions. Operating in key industrial hubs of the country, including Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, and Takeo, the Initiative has already impacted 187,000 workers. Its approach involves comprehensive assessments of factories, followed by providing a framework for monitoring, mitigation, and remediation of working conditions.

2nd Annual LABS Initiative Meeting hosted in Phnom Penh on 25 October 2023.

The Annual Platform meeting will serve as a recurring event, bringing together representatives from private enterprises, governmental organizations, and civil society. Through this continual engagement, stakeholders aim to reinforce their commitment to advancing gender equality within the apparel and footwear industry, marking it as an urgent priority. The LABS Initiative and its allied organizations believe that sustained dialogue and collaboration can effect real, tangible changes that will benefit not just women, but the industry as a whole.

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