Beer Girls: Cambodian Beer Promotion Women
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slideshow of Cambodian beer sellers
Memorial list of "beer girls" & entertainment industry colleagues in Siem Reap - prepared by Tra Tim, Pan Sophear, Srei Neang & Jillian Schuster.
YOU CAN SUPPORT THE HIV/AIDS PREVENTION WORK IN CAMBODIA THROUGH A CHARITABLE DONATION.
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Read about SiRCHESI's recent accomplishments with beer sellers and other members of the Siem Reap community. SiRCHESI newsletter (pdf-file,600kB)

www.beergirls.org tells the stories of the women beer sellers in Cambodia. Cambodian Beer Sellers (called locally "beer girls", a derogatory term, or "beer promoters" or "promotion girls" by their companies) exclusively sell one brand of beer in bars and restaurants. Some work on commission and others receive a monthly salary; either way, they earned only $US81. Evidence-driven "living wages" ($208 monthly in 2009) --sufficient to feed family-- would add an additional annual cost of $1500 to each beer seller's salary. 

To supplement their income, about half accept propositions from tourists and local beer drinkers and exchange sex for money.

Condom use following beer drinking is reduced and as a high risk group HIV/AIDS prevalence rates 20% (1995-2003). While they sold on average, in 2009, $16,000 worth of beer (varying by brands) , they were paid $972 p.a. and without a "living wage" could not afford to feed their families nor pay themselves for life-prolonging antiretrovirals; without the latter, death often followed from 3 months to 2 years after diagnosis. They were easily replaced with new young women from the countryside, often with less than 1 hour of training. More insidious than even HIV/AIDS has been chronic workplace alcoholism or dependency, with women drinking hazardous and harmful quantities of alcohol - 4-6 standard drinks, 27 nights per month.

Most beer companies though aware of government reports, research (Green & Lubek, 2010: Lubek et al, 2003) and press stories, have so far declined to play fair with these women. Prior to 2006, all companies described them as 'promotional or advertising costs' in their annual reports, rather than as salaried or commissioned workers or subcontractors, under the Cambodian Labour Code.

The beer companies have failed to 1) pay "living" wages, 2) provide timely health education, 3) provide company health benefits, including antiretroviral treatments as needed, and 4) provide a safe, healthy and secure workplace, free of violence and harassment. See SiRCHESI's April 2010 press release (pdf) for more information.

For more detailed accounts of how one local NGO, SiRCHESI (sponsored in part by private donors) works in Siem Reap to prevent HIV/AIDS in groups at high risk, please visit www.angkorwatngo.com



Company case study:

Cambodian 'beer promotion women' and corporate caution, recalcitrance or worse? Lubek, I. (2005) read in pdf 83 kb. Read the unsanitized version (53 kb) 'Just dying for a beer' (Lubek 2004 copyright) which removes some anonymity.

Heineken's own HIV/AIDS policy (read in RTF or PDF) still not implemented for Cambodian Beer promotion women). (Read press reports Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad articles about Cambodian and Chinese beer promotion women and Promotion girls/beer?).


"Beer girl study":

In Memoriam: Srei Neamb (1972-2002). Meghan McCourt and Pam Traut. Read in Rich Text Format

Online
stories


Bitter Story of Restaurant Hostess (28 July 07) Online report at www.vuthasurf.com

Beer Promotion Girl’s Career (9 July 07) Online report at www.vuthasurf.com



Latest

Sept 2013. Intensive Internships with SiRCHESI in Cambodia Apply for supervised internships in Siem Reap Cambodia in 2014. 2 weeks of intensive field work in HIV/AIDS prevention, alcohol and violence reduction workshops, anti-trafficking programs, reproductive health community outreach with peer-educators, as well as rounds/visits in local hospitals and health centres, VCCT clinic, HAART provision. more info & how to apply.

August 2012. 

The Phnom Penh Post published an article on August 22nd, on how statistics show job risks for beer promoters. When confronted with these findings by the leading English paper in Cambodia, Danish brewer Carlsberg has now publicly vowed to improve working conditions of their promotional staff. (read articles of 22 August and 27 August)

SOMO, Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations,  is an independent, non-profit research and network organisation working on social, ecological and economic issues related to sustainable development. In August 2012 they released  a report  under the title Promoting Decency? Major beer companies earn money on the backs of Cambodian beer promoters.  The report argues how  beer promotion workers selling Heineken, Carlsberg, Bavaria and other beer in Cambodian bars and restaurants earn too little to make a decent living. (read the report).

13 March 2012. Follow up on the beer seller's strike. Michelle Tolson's writes "Cambrew continues to fire its female workers without legal cause for simply standing up for their rights". Read her article in full online at www.thewip.net and also her article in Khmer in the Phnom Penh Post; read pdf version.

18 Aug Cambrew is reported as agreeing to pay Angkor beer sellers overtime (US$2) for work on Sundays Read article (pdf)

5 Aug 2011 Beer Sellers Union CSFWF communicate about the temporary ending of the strike. Read letter (rtf)

photo of beer sellers protesting outside Cambrew

Beer Sellers Take Action in Cambodia
Local newspaper stories cover the beer-sellers strike in Cambodia: from protest outside Cambrew Headquarters in Phnom Penh to campaigns to Carlsberg and the Deputy Governor intervention with a commitment to paying overtime and backpay.
Read press coverage
See photos of the protest

SiRCHESI continues to work to reduce workplace risks for Beer sellers in Cambodia. Read their latest newsletter for details.

To continue this important work in 2011 SiRCHESI relies on donations. Please make a donation and help make a difference to the lives of beer sellers in Cambodia.

In March 2011 the independent and non-commercial Belgian newssite De Wereld Morgen published an article  on the Cambodian beergirls, written by Hilde van Regenmortel, an Oxfam regional casemanager for Asia. The focus on the article is on the activities of the Cambodian trade unions (see below). Read the original article through this link - for translations in other languages please use the available (online) software, for instance Google translate.

Beer sellers in Siem Reap form a Workers Union (Aug, 2010) Read more

Health, safety and security for Cambodian women beer sellers were substandard in 2009: Urgent actions are still required by all major brewers (AB/INBEV, Carlsberg, HEINEKEN/ Asia Pacific Breweries, SAB/Miller, Guinness, San Miguel, Bavaria, Asahi, etc.) Read 2010 report by Michelle Green & Ian Lubek (pdf)


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Website updated 27/09/13