Giant Cloth Condoms take Centre Stage at Factory Workers’ Health Fair

bangkok cloth workers

Alan Smith Senior Adviser, HIV, visited a project  to improve access to integrated SRH and HIV services for factory workers. It’s run by Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC) and funded by Japanese Trust Fund.

“I visited a garment factory owned by a joint Japanese/Taiwanese company which sells jackets and trousers to Marks and Spencer, and Walmart, based in the suburbs of Phnom Penh. Wages are low in Cambodia and there is very limited tax and regulatory controls as the Cambodian Government is keen to attract foreign investment. Many Cambodians actually leave to work for higher wages in Thailand, Japan and South Korea. 

The factory employs around 1,000 people nearly all young and fairly uneducated girls from the rural areas who have migrated to the capital for work. They send about 50% of their wages home to their families.  There is a small clinic in the factory staffed by a nurse, but this only offers sleeping facilities and some pills for headaches so is very basic but staffed by one nurse.

On the day I was visiting, RHAC carried out a health fair to publicise vouchers and services available for the factory workers through the JTF project.  The clinic provides services for everyone but charges fees, whilst for factory workers they are free. It averages 120 patents per week, with Sunday being the busiest day as it’s the factory workers day off. After Phnom Penh, the fair tours each of the 30 factories in the project . 

An audience of factory workers were entertained by a balloon game, giant condoms, and were offered various tests and information about free services and vouchers.  At the start of the health fair (which runs in the lunch break) the workers were understandably concerned about getting their lunch, but by the end of the fair there was a large attendance, including reporters from Cambodian TV.”