Peer education: designing a classroom in their facilities

Vorn Navin flipped finger through the A4 papers of his students’ notes. © 2023 Nasa Dip/CARE

Vorn Navin flipped finger through the A4 papers of his students’ notes. © 2023 Nasa Dip/CARE

He flipped fingers through the A4 papers of his students’ notes. One by one, the young trainer read out his student’s answers with a little dose of jokes out of his extroverted personality.

The workers enjoyed the lesson while starting to think carefully about what he was showing – managing their monthly salary.

In a classroom of more than 20 garment workers, Vorn Navin wore his “peer educator” t-shirt committing to duty beside his position in the factory’s Stock department. As part of the collaboration with CARE Cambodia, the partner factories appointed their potential focal persons to join the project as peer educator and receive technical training provided by CARE.  

Back at his factory, Navin was selected to join the project adding on to his usual duty. As he introduced himself with a friendly smile, He said “The head of the factory’s human resources selected me as a trainer when the factory first started the project with CARE Cambodia, and I got selected to join the Training of the Trainer and since then I worked with my team to further provide the training inside the factory.”  

For someone with an outspoken personality like Navin, there is no doubt the reason behind his potential as a peer educator. Out of the three main sessions, he taught financial literacy by starting with small group work on categorizing incomes and spending of the worker’s monthly salary before continuing to his core lesson on the importance of categorizing and managing their income. “Follow what we are  observed, we admit that even though workers have access to smartphone tools such as social media, Facebook or television to check information, most of the time they use those resources for casual entertainment like watching drama or scrolling around,” he said during a post-training discussion with CARE’s team. 

Navin mentioned the benefit of selecting peer educators among the factory staff. “If the factory provides training like nowadays, workers will get direct knowledge and understanding. Our educators work with them in the same place, we all know each other so they [workers] have no fear joining or receiving the lesson.’’  

Years of working in this industry, he witnessed challenges and concerns among the workers. Navin taught his students to create a financial book and note down spending every month as he pointed out the difference between need and want. His dedication followed the need to help garment workers better manage their financial risk and reduce the debt trap. When talking about behavior changes, Navin notices two main things.  

“I see two tangible changes. First, workers started owning and using finance books and second, they reduced debt as they started to save and manage salary better. We notice a lot of reduction in money borrowing among them.”  Creating a fun atmosphere is perhaps his skill. In another session, Navin did a mini role-play for his students when his teaching partner started her lesson.    

Tin Vichara, a human resource staff, and female peer educator partnered with Navin to show their students a short illustration of inappropriate behaviors at the workplace as she began her lesson on prevention of sexual harassment.

Tin Vichara, a peer educator and HR officer during her session on GBV and Prevention of Sexual Harassment. © 2023 Nasa Dip/CARE

Understanding gender, sexual harassment, and their prevention is another core element of the project. Not just for the garment industry alone, the knowledge of this topic is deemed necessary for socially and economically marginalized women who are affected by occurrences.   

Vichara and Navin brought an engaged environment to their classroom. The pair, with the help of another female educator, played a two-minute scene where Navin showed what was considered an unwanted behavior toward a female colleague. They made a poll discussion after on whether his earlier attitude is considered acceptable at the workplace.  

Similar to what Navin has seen, Vichara mentioned “A lot of [female] workers met or witnessed sexual harassment without being aware it is harassment, and these happened at their workplace, home, or their areas, but they don’t seem to even realize what harassment is. With these lessons, they learned and knew later where to go when things happen.”  

As changes happen in factory facilities, Vichara has seen some behavior changes among the male workers. “Some of them now are aware of their inappropriate sexual jokes and realized the wrongdoing,” she said.   

Besides the changes they are a part of making as peer educators, Navin and Vichara are also on a learning path of becoming skilled trainers in their factories. With their teaching capacities already at hand, the pairs received further technical support and training from CARE that enabled them to apply different teaching methods and create interactive lessons for their peers. 

Following what were the negative impacts of COVID-19, workers across the garment sector face change after change. Recognizing that building economic resilience among workers in this sector is deemed necessary, essential skills, knowledge, awareness, and access to labor support are tools to ensure that no one is left behind.   

This initiative, known as the “Strengthening the Economic Resilience of Female Garment Workers” under a Made by Women initiative, aimed to provide essential and sustainable support and tools to support women in making positive changes in their lives.

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Workers participate in their classroom activities

Workers discuss about their thought on the example the peer educators raised from the lessons. © 2023 Nasa Dip/CARE