The International Labor Organization yesterday launched a scheme aimed at improving the health and workplace participation of women in the garment industry, ILO representatives said yesterday.
Speaking at a conference in Phnom Penh, Tuomo Poutiainen, chief technical officer at the ILO’s Better Factories program, said the Social Protection and Gender project was aimed at enhancing workers’ access to health services and increasing awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS and infant and maternal mortality.
“Child mortality has been identified by the UN in Cambodia as one of those areas where additional work is needed in order for Cambodia to attain the millennium development goals that have been set for the end of 2015,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the meeting.
With 470 Cambodian women dying in every 100,000 live births, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate has remained stubbornly high in the last decade.
He said the ILO could contribute to helping achieve these goals by improving health care within the workplace.
“What we are trying to do is enhance the role of enterprises’ physicians,” he said.
The project, which was delayed for a year due to the global financial crisis, will be funded by Spanish development agency AECID and will cost around $1.2 million for its first two years, Mr Poutiainen said.
The plan will be implemented early next year, he said. Which factories will participate has not been decided yet but the plan should initially be rolled out in around 50 factories, he added.
Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, an official partner in the scheme, said the association was taking steps to improve working conditions in the sector.
“GMAC have always been very cooperative to bring investors to Cambodia and to help existing workers who maintain production,” he said.
Chan Sorey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said the project would raise awareness of the drive to reduce child mortality rates and improve maternal health.
“When the standard of living is driven higher, the women know a lot about this issue” of reducing maternal mortality, she said.