Women Worker’s Rights through Stronger Trade Unions in Cambodia

Jul 28, 2021

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA works with unions and community-based partner organisations to advance women as leaders, advocates, and campaigners, to achieve justice in their workplaces and their communities.

In Cambodia, our Women Worker’s Rights through Stronger Trade Unions project is increasing women workers access to labour rights and protections. In this project, we work with Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) and three unions that represent large numbers of urban women workers:

  • The Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (representing hotel and restaurant service staff and the large number of women involved in food processing)
  • The Building and Woodworkers Trade Unions of Cambodia (representing the large number of women employed in unskilled, low waged labouring jobs in Cambodia’s booming construction industry)
  • The Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (representing informal economy workers, such as street vendors, waste collectors, domestic workers and tuk-tuk drivers)
Advancing women’s participation in union structures

Despite the enormous challenges of COVID 19, with support from APHEDA Cambodia and volunteers from the Australian union movement, this partnership has advanced women worker’s rights.

Unions in Cambodia are struggling with the impact of COVID 19. They are under pressure to meet the needs of workers who have lost incomes. They are fighting back against employers who are taking advantage of COVID 19 to exploit workers. And they are facing the reality of reducing memberships and increasing government restrictions that threaten their very existence.

The three unions, facilitated by APHEDA, have designed and implemented gender and power analyses, reflecting on the role of women within their union organisation.  Through reviews of their own policies and procedures, interviews and focus groups with leaders, staff and grass roots organizers, each union has developed a two-year action plan to address gender inequality within their respective unions.

These action plans include the establishment of women’s committees, the development of gender training tool kits, training of staff and organisers, reviews of labour laws for gender equity, commitments to increase the proportion of women in union leadership, and allocations of funding for advancement of women within their unions.


Strengthening representation or women workers issues by the union

With these plans in place for strengthening the participation of women within their unions, the partners have begun to explore the quality of representation of their women members. In May and June, we completed a training and co-designed a needs assessment of women union members. The needs assessment will be conducted during the next few months and will result in a similar two-year strategy and plan for each union to strengthen the quality of representation of their women members, which will in turn strengthen labour rights and protections for women working in these vulnerable sectors.

The engagement of Ministry of Women’s Affairs with women worker’s issues has been an important outcome of this project. Despite a slow start due to COVID 19, the project has led to an agreement by Ministry of Women’s Affairs to provide a platform for sharing information and women workers voices to decision makers in government through a series of dialogue workshops. The first workshop will be held in August, when Ministry of Women’s Affairs will engage Ministry of Labour in a discussion about the women worker’s issues identified through consultation with the unions and possibilities for addressing them.

See photos from the DAB newswebsite: https://dap-news.com/national/2021/07/20/167648/




The Women Worker’s Rights through Stronger Trade Unions project in Cambodia is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), Australian trade unions, and members of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.

The Global Justice Organisation of the Australian Union Movement

The work of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA relies on the efforts of thousands of Australian unionists and internationalists who raise funds, volunteer, and take action to build solidarity across borders. 

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