Transformative Leadership: Yang Sophorn's Unwavering Commitment to Workers' Rights

Transformative Leadership: Yang Sophorn's Unwavering Commitment to Workers' Rights
A photo Ms Yang Sophorn presented during the Trade Union Leadership Programme Training (BetterWork)


Anna Vu kim 

Southeast Asia and Pacific and Human Rights Researchers

Global Human Rights Defence

In the bustling city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the heartbeat of workers' rights is sustained by the unwavering dedication of leaders like Yang Sophorn. A former factory worker turned prominent figure in the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), Sophorn's journey is a testament to the transformative power of grassroots leadership and continuous personal and professional development.

Since its establishment in 2011, CATU has been a stalwart advocate for labour rights, and at its helm is the dynamic Yang Sophorn. Recently, Sophorn shared insights into her remarkable journey in an interview with Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), shedding light on her evolution from a factory worker in 1993 to a respected union leader today.

At the core of Sophorn's commitment lies a profound desire to make a difference. Having experienced the challenges faced by workers firsthand, she transitioned from a worker to a union leader in 2000, becoming a member of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC). For Sophorn, joining a union was not just a career choice; it was a heartfelt commitment to alleviating the hardships faced by her fellow workers.

The Trade Union Leadership Training program, completed by 22 trade union leaders across Cambodia, aligns with BFC's vision to equip leaders with the skills and knowledge necessary for effective representation. By focusing on professional leadership, teamwork, collaboration, and technical capabilities, BFC aims to nurture leaders capable of driving positive change, advocating for workers, and actively participating in industry consultations and negotiations.

Sophorn's journey is a shining example of the power of capacity building, particularly in developing leadership skills for trade union leaders. Her story illustrates how individuals like Sophorn, through dedication and continuous learning, can transform not only themselves but also the organizations they lead, ensuring the protection and advancement of workers' interests.

In Sophorn's own words, "Being a leader means making decisions that affect a lot of people. This was a change from within. It wasn’t a concept forced on me in the lessons. It was a realization I came to gradually when I reflected on the training." Her journey is an inspiration for trade union leaders everywhere, reinforcing the idea that empowered leaders can be catalysts for positive change in the lives of workers and beyond

Sources and further reading:

BetterWork. (December 12, 2023). Empowering Trade Union Leaders: Yang Sophorn’s Journey

Retrieved on December 13, 2023, from


Mohtashami Khojasteh, N. (December 8, 2023). Champions of Change: Activists Leading the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence at Work

Retrieved on December 13, 2023, from