Improving identification of sexual harassment in factories: How CARE and Better Factories Cambodia worked in partnership

by 15th Oct 2019
Workers leaving a garment factory in Cambodia at the end of their shift Workers leaving a garment factory in Cambodia at the end of their shift

CARE International and Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) are working together to improve how factories prevent and respond to sexual harassment. This collaboration illustrates the benefits of partnership between organisations who share similar goals.

Since 2014 CARE Cambodia has been addressing the issue of workplace sexual harassment in factories, building on years of working on this issue in other sectors. CARE developed a sexual harassment prevention package which supports factories to improve their prevention of and response to sexual harassment. Developed in collaboration with factories and drawing on global evidence, this aims to support factories to send a clear message about what behaviours will not be tolerated and respond effectively to complaints. It also assists factories in meeting compliance obligations as actors in a global supply chain.

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Introductions and access

When CARE presented the sexual harassment prevention package to industry partners in Cambodia, BFC recommended this as an effective way for factory managers to address this issue and urged its advisory factories to work with CARE. The support of a trusted intermediary was valuable in reinforcing CARE’s credibility with the industry and building trust with individual businesses. By late 2018 CARE was working with factories employing more than 30,000 workers to improve how they address sexual harassment.

Working together also increased the quality of factory engagement. CARE and BFC remain in regular contact about progress in individual factories, working together to address any issues that may arise. For example, if a factory constantly postpones planned activities, CARE staff can work through BFC advisory staff to identify the underlying causes for delays and take steps to address these.

Technical inputs

BFC’s factory assessments include evaluation of whether sexual harassment is taking place. However, they recognised that it is challenging to identify cases as assessors are not technical experts on gender-based violence and BFC had not yet developed a standardised tool for how to appraise this.
Initially, CARE’s Gender Advisor provided training to BFC staff on gender and sexual harassment to improve their ability to recognise this in all its forms.

CARE’s training team then joined BFC’s assessors to explore what they look for during factory visits and help standardise their approach. With CARE’s technical experts helping revise their guidelines, BFC was able to improve its ability to come to an accurate conclusion about the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring in a factory.

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A united voice

One of the challenges of engaging with factories on this issue is their concern that showing an increased number of reports of sexual harassment may have negative impacts on their compliance assessment. BFC’s assessments are mandated by the government to be conducted annually, and are therefore linked to a company’s export licence, meaning factories have a vested interest in maintaining a positive reputation.

Together, CARE and BFC are working to challenge the perception that compliance is linked to absence of reports. Both organisations speak out about the value of proactive complaint/grievance response mechanisms backed by solid workplace policies, emphasising that effective systems to prevent and respond are the best way to show compliance.

The two organisations organise national and regional level events bringing together a range of industry stakeholders to promote engagement with practical workplace solutions for preventing sexual harassment.

What makes the partnership so effective?

While the partnership between CARE and BFC is non-financial, it clearly adds value on both sides. Key to this success is that the two organisations are united in their goals: to improve the lives of women employed in the Cambodian garment industry by ensuring they are safe and respected at work. In bringing together their respective areas of expertise and influence, each is better able improve the effectiveness of their operations while achieving greater overall impact.

Going global

CARE has adapted its sexual harassment prevention tools for use in factories across South-East Asian – in Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos – and is working in many more countries to address sexual harassment in the garment industry.

CARE and Better Work now aim to promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment together in more countries across the globe. 


The collaboration between CARE and BFC supports CARE’s implementation of the Enhancing Women’s Voice to STOP Sexual harassment in Cambodia. This project is supported by the Australian Government through ANCP and the Gender Action Platform.

CARE’s focus on preventing violence and harassment in garment factories is a key aim of the Made by Women strategy.

Jenny Conrad

I coordinate communications for CARE's Made by Women strategy, which promotes dignified work for women in the garment industry. I joined CARE in 2013 as Communications Advisor for the Cambodia office. During my time with CARE I have supported CARE Cambodia’s private sector engagement with a focus on the garment industry and led strategic communications for CARE Australia's International Programmes team.

Having started my career in marketing, prior to joining CARE I was leading communications for a global philanthropy publication. I hold a BA in English from the University of Bristol.


Twitter: @jennyeconrad