Sunday, July 19, 2009

Launch of the “I am precious” 2009 campaign

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The “I am precious” competition has launched on July 15, 2009 at the International Labor Organization (ILO) Better Factories Cambodia office in Phnom Penh.

The “I am precious” campaign is a joint event in a collaboration with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MoLVT), ILO Better Factories Cambodia (ILO BFC), the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the Garment Industry Productivity Center (GIPC), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Workers Unions and Precious Girl Magazine.

Prak Chantha, Secretary of State of the MoLVT, welcomed the establishment of the “I am precious” campaign and said this campaign will highlight Cambodian garment workers’ special skills and talents.

Chantha said the program would also point to possible growth in modeling for the garment industry and boost the morale of garment workers in the industry as a whole.

“I think that this program will help garment workers and the Cambodian government in ensuring sustainable garment industry growth, it will encourage the full participation of stakeholders, will stimulate respect for labor and international laws and reduce the impact of the unemployment crisis in Cambodia,” she said during opening remarks delivered to the launching ceremony on July 15.

The Secretary of State pointed out that the garment industry employs approximately 300,000 people, making it one of the most significant sectors of the Cambodian economy, alongside agriculture. Most of the sector’s employees are young people working to support their families.

Catherine Vaillancourt Laflamme, Training Specialist with the ILO BFC, said that the I am precious movement marked the second such event aimed at improving the lot of garment workers. It seeks to encourage employees to value the value the work they do, to see themselves as talented individuals and to give them the enjoyment of entering a T-shirt design competition.

At the conclusion of activities, the industry should be able to view itself as one offering rewarding careers with opportunities for growth. The value of its contribution to the economic and social development of the nation should also be abundantly clear to all. In short, the individual garment worker is to see him or herself as a precious national asset.

The campaign will also give the industry a positive global image through the involvement of international brands. She continued to say that while the competition will function as the entertaining key feature of the event, the campaign would also highlight elements such as information about career opportunities in the fashion industry. It will boost awareness of the industry and the supply chain, it will feature stories about young workers and management who have “made it” in the industry and examine the evolution of the industry and its future prospects.

Ms. Vaillancourt Laflamme also pointed out that the ILO BFC has been promoting decent working conditions in the export garment industry in Cambodia for almost 10 years now. The successful decade has been marked by cooperation between this organization, the Government, Labor organizations and international fashion labels.

“Through the monitoring of working conditions, and through adapting training and remediation activities, we believe that all of us have achieved something extraordinary,” she said. “The model Cambodia has developed, a model based on social dialogue for long term and sustainable economic and social improvement is now recognized worldwide.”

According to Vaillancourt Laflamme, at least 1,000 Cambodian garment workers from all factories in Cambodia are eligible to submit their dress and T-shirt designs for the competition. She said the competition opened on July 15 and will close on September 14. Results will be announced at a grand finale to be held on November 29 in Phnom Penh. The best designs will be displayed in a fashion show, the winners being selected by Cambodia’s garment industry stakeholders. She added the prizes would include trophies, sewing machines, cash, bicycles or vocational training courses relevant to garment work.

Kaing Monica, Business Development Manager of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia, said that the nation’s labor force was its most valuable asset and this was especially true of the garment industry.

The industry took form in 1994 and in just over 10 years, Cambodia has become one of the top ten suppliers of clothing to the United States of America with total exports valued at over US$3 billion in 2008.

“The garment industry has become one of the four pillars supporting the country’s economy. It is estimated that it accounts for over 80 percent of the country’s total exports, contributing about 17 percent of GDP,” he said.

He added that besides the 350,000 workers employed in the industry, around 1.7 million Cambodians rely on the continued health of the sector. This is a truly great achievement and it is in large part due to the skill and commitment of the Cambodian worker.




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