EngageMedia Blog

Cambodia's Garment Workers: Videos of a Struggle

by Seelan Palay February 10, 2015

Over the past two years, there has been a growing campaign to highlight the plight of workers in Cambodia's garment industry, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the country's exports.

The workers, over 80 percent of whom are women aged 18-35, face a myriad of problems including extremely poor wages and living conditions, and the lack of protection for health and safety. When these workers organise themselves to voice out about these issues, they are often met with threats of arrest, violence, and in some cases, death.

In December 2013, Cambodian garment workers went on a nation-wide strike asking for a higher monthly minimum wage than the $75 they currently earn. This led to a violent crackdown by Government authorities and a complete ban on demonstrations.

'Free The 23', a video recently uploaded to our website, was produced to call for the release of 21 garment workers and three prominent human rights activists who were among those arrested for organising for a minimum wage of $160 per month. The ongoing campaign has seen great global support.

The two-part video, 'Cambodian Workers Locked in Dispute', also tells the story of a wage dispute. It features the story of almost 200 workers who are owned $200,000 in wages and indemnity by a supplier of the global clothing brands Walmart and H&M.

The video was widely distributed and used as part of a global campaign to reach out to the retail giants through letters and demonstrations. Two months later, the workers won a settlement of an estimated $200,000, and another video was produced on their success. The looks of joy on the faces of the workers towards the end of the video is priceless.

Others are not as lucky however. The video 'Cambodian Workers VS Puma' tells the story of three female workers who were shot during a protest outside a Puma supplier's factory. This video was also used as part of an online petition campaign. Despite their pain, the women have all returned to work while their shooter, a former mayor, had his charges dropped and remains free.

Another film that should be mentioned is 'Who Killed Chea Vichea?', a banned documentary which investigates the murder of labour leader Chea Vichea and a supposed government plot that framed two men. As this year marks the 10th anniversary of the assassination, an attempt was made to screen the film publicly in Cambodia. But authorities announced on the day of the screening that any foreigners involved would be deported and Cambodians arrested. The event was then cancelled.

Through our partnerships with organisations such as VOD and LICADHO, we continue to source and distribute videos on the various problems faced by Cambodia's garment workers. Among the latest videos we featured earlier this month is 'Is This Home?', which portrays the dirty, tiny rooms which house from five up to seven women workers. Other new videos highlight issues surrounding their health, occupational safety, sexual harassment, and working mothers.

Join us in bringing these issues to light. Please share this article and these videos to help raise awareness on the tragic and ongoing struggle of the Cambodian workers.

Citizen Empowerment through Video in Indonesia

by Yerry Nikholas Borang July 03, 2020
Some notable examples of how video has empowered Indonesians in the push for rights and good governance.

In recent years in Indonesia, young people, activists, migrant workers, and video enthusiasts have been working with video to promote and achieve change for a more democratic society. There are many examples that can be found, where citizens have used the moving image as an act of citizen empowerment to push for open government.

The best example I can probably give is the Cinema Lovers Community Purbalingga (CLC) . The CLC is a club, a place to hang out for young people in Purbalingga, which is a small city in the south of the Central Java Province. For years now, the CLC has also served as a training center, training students and youths in using video to expose social problems in their neighbourhoods and around the city.

They have also produced this extensive video about local elections in their regency. They wanted to capture what happened during the election and also did a comparison of what elected candidates promised and delivered. This film was one of the winners at the South2South Film Festival 2012, and can also be viewed on the EngageMedia site here. The CLC have also set up and established this local film festival in Purbalingga.

Another example I'd like to share is the Moviemento project, which we conducted with Inspirasi Muda (IM), an independent youth organization in East Kalimantan, to produce videos to raise awareness among young people about corruption in Balikpapan as part of their vision for a clean government in the city.

One NGO, Pusat Sumberdaya Buruh Migran, which focuses on migrant workers issues, uses minute-long videos to promote dialogues between Indonesian migrant workers and Members of Parliament. This initiative has taken place in some sessions during an open debate related to the Migrants Protection Bill.

There are various other examples online which show how video can empower citizens push for a more effective democracy in Indonesia. With legislative and presidential elections happening in April and July this year, we hope to document another set of such videos.