Read their stories
CARE is creating a more equal world by supporting women to earn an income, and working with communities to challenge harmful attitudes. This includes working with employees and managers in female-dominated industries such as garment factories, where we’re helping to improve safety and increase opportunities for female leadership.
But in many of the countries where we work, employees still have inadequate legal protection from sexual harassment and violence. These are their stories.
Nary is a 36-year-old hostess at a karaoke bar in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – where she and her colleagues encounter harassment on a daily basis.
“When customers were drunk, they forcefully touched our bodies without consent and when we refused their advances, they became physically violent.”
“One of my customers dragged me to his car. Luckily, the bar owner stopped him and took me back. I am so thankful for being saved. I don’t know what that man would have done to me.”
Nary decided she’d had enough of the abuse and harassment, and commenced training with CARE to become involved in social work to support women in the entertainment industry.
“CARE taught me so much about the issues. I started to build my courage to speak out in public and joined discussions about the issues to help find a way for entertainment workers to have dignity in their jobs. I now see myself as a strong woman who can work not only in the entertainment industry, but also as a social worker.”
Cambodian Sorya, 34, has been working in garment factories since she was 18. In that time she has experienced more than her fair share of sexual harassment at work.
“Sometimes my colleagues would hug me from behind and call me ‘honey’. Sometimes they would tease me verbally. I tried to accept it but in my heart I was so mad and really wanted them to stop.”
She didn’t know this type of behaviour was called sexual harassment – she just knew it made her mad, and made her not want to go to work.
When CARE brought its Enhancing Women’s Voice to Stop Sexual Harassment (STOP) project to Sorya’s workplace, things changed. The project helps reduce sexual harassment through training, the development of effective policies, and the implementation of safe reporting mechanisms.
“Before there was no sexual harassment policy in my garment factory at all, but now we have one. It helps us solve issues quickly. Workers now feel safe and secure because they can depend on the policy and other people.”
Myat, 29, supports her family by working as a Human Resources Assistant at a handbag factory in Myanmar.
Her mobile phone number was given to staff so people could contact her. Soon she started received obscene text messages and pictures from an unknown phone number.
She had no idea which colleague was sending her the messages and she felt unsafe going to work – wondering which of the many people she passed each day might be responsible.
“I felt ashamed, afraid and angry… I felt unsafe as I did not know if this person was near me or not. I was also scared and worried that they might do something to me on my way home from work.”
Myat joined a CARE training program where she learnt about gender-based violence, and how to lead change.
“Thanks to the training, I was brave and decided to inform the police to ensure proper punishment for the person responsible. I believe that handling this case in the proper way will reduce the chances of this kind of thing happening to other women in the future.”
Marthe, from Rwanda, and her ex-husband used to own a shop together. To pay for the shop, they took out a loan.
When her husband was fired from his own job, he did not handle it well, and started seeing other women and stopped contributing to his family.
“He used our money for other things and I was the only one repaying the loan for the shop. He hurt me physically. At a certain point it became too much for me and I asked for a divorce.”
Divorcing her husband and business partner was hard on Marthe, who had a two-year-old and was eight months pregnant at the time, but she understands that it was the right move.
“For one year I have been attending CARE’s Every Voice Counts project. The training helps me understand the gender-based violence that I faced and also to know the different services that the government is offering to gender-based violence survivors. It helped me start a new life.”
Like many girls in Ecuador, Alicia started working at a young age. By the time she was 14, she had left the Andean mountains to work as a cook, nanny and maid for a family in neighbouring Colombia.
Her employers withheld payment as a means of controlling her, and tried to pressure her to have sex, which she resisted. “They told me I needed to have sex with the man in order to get paid,” she says.
Alicia now participates in a program in which CARE educates communities about women’s rights and values, and offers women training in advocacy, financial management, and political organising. CARE supports women in these organisations to create their own change, and break down the barriers that have kept women trapped in the cycle of poverty.
Alicia wants her story to reach others, the next generation, and daughters like hers.
“It is good to talk about our experiences,” she says. “It is good to release our pain. That’s what makes us stronger.”
Twenty-year-old Kor from Laos faces many challenges with the men who work in her garment factory.
“Almost all the factory workers are women because women know how to sew. But there are men in the factory. They often make sexist remarks or jokes about the women. Even the managers.”
“It happens often to me and my friends. Sometimes men show me pornography on their phone or send it to my phone. The men stand in the dormitory doorway to watch the women … it makes me feel unsafe.”
“One man asked me to go out with him but when I insisted a friend come too he refused, so I didn’t feel comfortable and decided not to go. Soon afterwards I started hearing people at the factory spreading sexual rumours about me. It made me feel bad and very embarrassed.”
“I still work at the factory because I don’t have a choice; I don’t have enough education or experience to find a new job.”
In Laos, CARE works with individual households, organisations, and local governments to tackle the cultural norms which lead to gender-based violence.
Sunita is a construction worker in Nepal. On one occasion, she found herself alone with the owner of the home she was working on.
“He took advantage of the isolated environment and grabbed me by my wrists and molested me. I cried for help but he covered my mouth and continued to molest me.”
“My repeated attempts to escape failed until I grabbed a pot and hit him on his head. I then ran outside and cried for help.”
“This incident left me sleepless for many nights, and I now feel that women aren't safe anywhere.”
“A place of work should be dignified and safe.”
“I know that most women in the construction sector have been abused and working in such an unsafe environment is a huge challenge for us.”
In Nepal, CARE works with individual households, organisations, and local governments to tackle the cultural norms which lead to gender-based violence.