Duchess of Cambridge urged to support Cambodia’s sweatshop workers
Anti-poverty charity War on Want has today called on the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, to support sweatshop workers in Cambodia.
According to a new report, Restricted Rights, high-street fashion chain Zara (a favourite of Middleton’s), is one of a number of retailers exploiting Cambodian women working in sweatshops.
The charity is urging Middleton to press the retailer to stop the exploitation of these women, who earn as little as 20p an hour making clothes.
The report, which investigates conditions for garment workers in Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, exposes a number of brands guilty of exploiting female workers, including H&M, Gap, Marks & Spencer, Levi Strauss, Timberland and Benetton.
The report also notes that London Olympic Games partner Adidas is guilty of the same exploitation. Middleton is a Team GB ambassador for the Olympics.
War on Want has also demanded that Kenneth Clarke, the UK’s justice secretary, establish a business, human rights and environment commission to protect rights for workers supplying British retailers.
Laia Blanch, international programmes officer at War on Want, said: “Western brands promote themselves as ethical and responsible towards the people who make their goods.
“But they maximise their profits and minimise costs by exploiting migrant women workers as cheap labour. It is high time the British government stopped this abuse.”
According to the report, almost 90% of Cambodia’s garment workers are young women migrants from rural areas. They typically work 10 hour shifts and take home between £50-55 per month.
The garment industry is the predominant export earner in Cambodia, with garment products accounting for around 90% of the country’s exports.
Nine out of ten Cambodian women interviewed for the report said that despite sharing a room with four or five others, they still needed to cut back on essential food in order to send any money home to their families.
One 29-year-old woman interviewed for the report described her daily existence;
“I live with four other friends who come from the same village as me. We spend $20 for rent and around $10 for water and electricity supplies.
“It is really crowded for us in the small room, but we have no choice: we have to live together in order to save money.
‘We spend around $0.50-1 a day on food. We eat together every day. Our food is not good enough for our health but we do not know how to improve it.
“My family at home needs me to send money to pay for their daily needs because they do not have any livelihood other than cultivation.”