Tag Archives: Cambodia

LEARN // Educational resources to follow fashion and think through protest


In light of the four year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse (April 24th), as well as International Workers’ Day (May 1st), I thought it would be a good time to share some new educational resources related to fashion and responsibility.

Ian Cook et al. of followthething.com have launched a free online course through FutureLearn: Who Made My Clothes? The 3-week course is designed to help learners think through systems of global fashion and apparel production and consumption, and to consider new ways of engaging with global supply chains. Here is the course introduction video explaining what’s on offer:


In an earlier blog post I shared a few thoughts on alternative forms of protest, highlighting Sarah Corbett and the Craftivist Collective. I mentioned that the School of Gentle protest would be launching soon…and it has! The course has already gone live, but you can still follow-along and participate. There are six classes, each with short video lessons, recommended readings and weekly assignments. For more information on these, see here and here. Here’s an introduction to the course:

I think what’s most interesting (and exciting) about these two initiatives, is that they strive to get learners interested in alternative forms of engagement. While so many responsible fashion education and campaign actions focus on consumer-based (user) approaches to change, these initiatives offer the potential to move things further, leaving space for learners to think through systemic challenges related to fashion and apparel production and consumption. The result is that learners are able to curate their own activist toolkit, with or without consumer-based strategies and actions.

The Social Alterations ‘Mind Map’ is one of our key resources designed to help you dig through to the root causes and consequences of a particular issue or challenge. We’d recommend keeping this resource on hand and using it in conjunction with the Who Made My Clothes? course and The School of Gentle Protest. You’ll find that resource for free in our Lab, here.

And with our Mind Map in hand, here are some additional resources to check out:

And of course, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out all of the resources we have developed over the years. You’ll find these all available to download for free in our Learning Lab.

Happy learning everyone, hope it all leads to some creative disruption!

Update // Cambodian garment workers battle for wage hike

A worker’s sign demanding $160/month minimum wages | Image taken at a rally by Mu Sochua, a Cambodian opposition party MP [click the photo to go to her blog].

Last week, Mary reported on the violent protests in Cambodia which included garment workers who have been demonstrating against a proposed minimum wage increase to US$100/month. The workers have asked for US$160/month which still falls short of the living wage proposed by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance [see the report entitled Latest Asia Floor Wage figure in Local Country Currencies (2012)] of KHR 1178814.60/month which is equivalent to something between US$283-294/month, depending on the exchange rate.

It is important to add that these demonstrations are not limited to wage issues. As I wrote on January 4th on the SA facebook page:

“Keep in mind that this is not just about wages but also stems from a complicated alliance between the numerous unions & the opposition party to challenge Hun Sen’s 28-year rule. This is part of an ongoing movement kickstarted by the July 2013 election which the opposition believes was rigged. They have since boycotted parliament, calling for new elections in daily rallies in Phnom Penh. And in the middle of all this politics is the fashion supply chain.

For a bit more on the background to these protests, listen to the following conversation from the CBC’s As it happens (Jan. 3rd):

Here are some updates specific to the garment industry angle of this story:

  • The protests continued over the week culminating in 5 deaths and around 40 injuries when authorities opened fire. Meanwhile, the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) estimates sales losses of US$200 million and project a 30 per cent drop in orders in 2014 due to the protests. GMAC, in a press conference, condoned the military police’s reaction to protesters, and blamed striking workers for all deaths which were described as “collateral damage”.
  • Today’s news reports (see also here) confirm that the protests are suspended (for now) as unions advised workers to go back to work. Union leaders plan a meeting to regroup and rethink their protest strategy.
  • Sithi.org uploaded an open letter from some brands to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Cabinet of the Prime Minister, the Council of the Ministers, the Chairman of GMAC and union leaders calling for a peaceful resolution of this conflict and expressing deep concern over the violence writing further that “[o]ur primary concerns are for the security and safety of the workers employed by our suppliers and the long-term stability of the Cambodian garment industry.” The brands added “[w]e believe that the only way to resolve this dispute is to cease all forms of violence, and for stakeholders to enter into good faith negotiations, allowing workers to safely return to work without fear of repercussions as soon as possible.” Kudos to the signatory brands: H&M, Gap Inc., Inditex, Adidas Group, Puma, Levi Strauss & Co., and Columbia.
  • Finally, to add an international political economy dimension to these protests, there is a report (see also here) that details the South Korean embassy’s involvement in back channel dealings pressing the Cambodian government to protect Korean interests. South Korea was the largest investor in Cambodia in 2012.

This story is ongoing and we’ll do our best to continue the updates on a regular basis. In the meantime, keep up with events over our Fb page and our twitter feed.