Sixteen new Library Learning Centres, organised by the Sipar NGO, are being set up starting this month in rural areas to fight against illiteracy and to develop the social and economic well-being of garment workers.
Sipar yesterday said the16 libraries, part of a three-year project, would be extensions of factories for self-learning and soft-skill development of garment workers in rural factories.
“There will be an additional 16 libraries in 16 factories in four new provinces, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Takeo, and Pursat,” it said.
“This project aims to increase opportunities for self-learning and access to the documents, information, and training on soft skills for garment workers and will fight against illiteracy as well as contribute to the well-being and the socio-economic development of the workers and their families.”
It said the project budget was about $750,000. Half of this will be paid by the French Development Agency, with 30 percent from the Weave Our Future Foundation, five percent from the new factories and the rest from other donors.
Puth Sovann, president of Trade Union Federation for Workers, said the manufacturing sector has developed in Cambodia, but garment workers were still in need of education.
“I fully support the project creating libraries for garment workers in these four provinces because all of them can get some understanding of living in safety in areas such as health and traffic,” he said.
He did not think all garment workers liked reading, but by having a library in the factory, workers would get information from those who read. “I hope that the project will continue to set up libraries in all the provinces across the country to improve the education of garment workers,” he added.
Sipar, a French NGO focused on reducing the country’s illiteracy rate, began the push for libraries in factories in 2013 when it opened its first library in a British-owned factory in Phnom Penh.
Sipar said more than 20,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh and in Kandal, Kampong Speu, Siem Reap and Kampong Chhnang provinces now have access to book reading services, digital and audiovisual tools and training sessions on key topics such as health, hygiene, and nutrition.
Raymond Tam, owner of the Jie Wei factory in Phnom Penh, said earlier that he was from Hong Kong and immediately supported Sipar’s library programme because he wanted to help his uneducated workers.
“I think that everything starts from education,” Mr Tam said. “Most of the workers from the provinces never went to school, or never finished school at a high level, so they are welcome to come to the library and take out what they need.”
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education announced the expansion of literacy classes for garment workers to more than 12 provinces where factories are located with more classes planned for the whole nation by 2020.