Protecting entertainment workers in Cambodia

Friday, December 7, 2018 - 07:02

Nikean works as a security guard at a KTV (Karaoke) bar in Cambodia and has been harassed countless times by customers and even colleagues. Her fight against sexual violence and harassment of women in the workplace is one of the stories we are highlighting during this year’s #16days of activism to end gender-based violence in the world of work.

Woman, divorced, mother of two daughters, working in a predominantly male environment. Nikean's story may differ in detail, but the plot is similar to thousands of women around the world.

For many years, Nikean worked as a security guard in a garment factory but the salary was not enough to support her and her daughters. To supplement her income, she decided to get a second job at night while continuing to work at the garment factory during the day.

While working at the garment factory, Nikean experienced discrimination and harassment but when she started work in the entertainment world the situation got much worse.

I work overtime, no days off, sick leave or annual leave, for little money. If I ask for leave, my employer deducts money from my salary. People discriminate against us and insult us in that place.

Women working in the entertainment sector are vulnerable to violence, experience extremely poor working conditions, and face challenges in unionizing and to guarantee their rights. In cities, working women also face harassment and discrimination by local authorities and the police.

But the situation is changing; Nikean is now a leader among her co-workers. After her first training on occupational health and safety with ActionAid’s partner Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (CFSWF), she took part in a number of courses and learnt about labour law, human rights, gender issues, and conflict resolution and negotiation. She now participates in campaigns to end violence against women and encourages dialogue with local authorities, calling for safe cities for women.

Nikean feels stronger and more able to stand up to sexual harassment and assault by customers. She talked to her managers about these issues and demanded that she and her female colleagues be respected at work. And there has been a clear shift. Managers have started to respect workers' rights. Nikean and her colleagues are no longer forced to drink or have sex with customers. Nikean is an inspiration to other women who want to challenge sexual harassment and work together to improve their working conditions.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and brings together over 6,000 organizations in 187 countries to call for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence. Read more about it: