Cambodias garment industry is the subject of a new documentary by UK fashion reuse charity TRAID

Cambodia's garment industry is the subject of a new documentary by UK fashion reuse charity TRAID

UK fashion reuse charity TRAID has launched a film in the UK revealing what it describes as the "dangers, indignities and impoverishment" of garment workers in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.

The films, which last from one to three minutes, premièred in London on Sunday (27 November), and document 50 garment workers who were given the equipment and skills to record their daily lives. They created a citizen journalists' group in June with Cambodian workers' rights group Central.

Mentored by film production company Rainbow Collective and supported by UK campaign group Labour Behind the Label, the workers are using the film to lobby for change in their factories.

"Cambodian garment factories are a major source of clothing for the UK high street, and the relentless fast fashion industry plays a major role in pushing wages down and turning a blind eye to worker safety," says Nicola Round, campaigns manager at Labour Behind the Label. "It's important for people to know where their clothes come from and under what conditions they are made." 

"With powerful stories and evidence like this we can hold brands to account for conditions and pay in their factories, and support the fair demands of the people – most of them women – who make our clothes."

Funded by Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development (TRAID), the project saw the involvement of activists with British filmmakers and campaigners.

The films document how the workers "struggle to provide for their families, risk their health in unsafe conditions and put themselves in danger just by travelling to work". According to the UK charity, thousands of workers were killed in traffic accidents last year alone and unions are calling for factories to provide safe transport for their workers.

Earlier this year, TRAID said it found photographic evidence of workers scraping their skin with coins, termed coining, to cool down from the heat in factories, which led to the installation of air conditioning systems by an Italian brand sourcing from the factory.

Leigh McAlea, head of communications at TRAID said of the documentary: "These rarely heard first-hand accounts from garment workers reveal how low pay and poor conditions impact negatively on every aspect of their lives. Exposing the conditions in which they work and live is a brave and necessary step in their struggle to demand an industry that lifts them out of poverty, rather than consigning them to it."

The film premièred at London's Platform Theatre in Southwark as part of Brainchild's Platform for Film event during TRAID's #Secondhandfirst Week to an audience of activists, NGO representatives, journalists and the general public. A trailer to the film can be viewed here.

The citizen journalists initiative is part of a wider project to give garment workers a voice through training workers and organisers, and raising awareness. Through providing legal aid and training, Central has secured compensation for workers, new unions have been set up and existing unions have seen increases in membership.