Behind the Fashion

The fashion world decks itself in glitz and glamour, but remains silent on the innumerable stories of the people who work in the textile industry or related sectors. Here, six Cambodians tell their stories of difficult work conditions, struggles, and resistance.

Ran Ren

Portrait of Ran Ren: “I wasn’t sure what I would do in the future, because now I was disabled.”

Ran Ren had worked as a sewing machine operator since she was 17. She lost her left arm in an accident on the way to work.

Ran Ren worked six days a week in one of the large factories close to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. In April 2019, she was involved in a serious traffic accident on her way to work. Ran Ren spent ten days in hospital. The costs were covered by the National Social Security Fund, the public health insurance agency. “I was born with two arms, I was used to having two arms and suddenly I’d lost one.” Ran Ren had to learn to manage her daily tasks with just her right arm. After six months she returned to work in the textile factory in a new position. Ran Ren continues to wait for a payment compensating her for the loss of her arm.

“I was born with two arms, I was used to having two arms and suddenly I’d lost one.”

The provision of healthcare to workers:

Since 2018, Cambodian factory owners have been obliged to pay their employees’ contributions to the public health insurance in full. Formerly, many workers had put money for medical emergencies aside, even if that sometimes meant being able to buy less food. However, when access to medical care is insufficient, simply having health insurance is not enough. Problems arise if hospitals and doctors are only open to factory workers during regular working hours, for example, or are poorly equipped, or much too far away.


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