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This Life Cambodia address gender based violence through cinema

Peter Olszewski / Khmer Times Share:
Executive director of TLC Billy Gorter (L) in a meeting with TLC staff. Supplied

This Life Cambodia (TLC) has released a new campaign-oriented short film addressing gender-based violence, which has already gained one million views in Cambodia. Headed by executive director Billy Gorter, the film is set to add to the non-governmental organisation’s (NGO) collection of international awards.

Once yearly since 2018, Gorter and the TLC team have produced a two-minute video addressing domestic violence for the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence campaign. Each year, the videos have reached a large audience and won multiple awards.

Their first short film in 2018, Protection, was viewed 1.1 million times and won five awards. These incuded the Shorty Social Good Awards’ winner for Best Campaign by Cause, Developing Nations; the Social Media Marketing Awards’ winner for Best use of Facebook and winner for Best Social Good Campaign; Not-for-profit Technology Awards’ winner for Best Social Media Campaign; and Festival of Media, Media and Marketing Awards’ highly commended for Best Campaign Led by Digital.

A still from TLC’s short film ‘Not Her Fault’ for the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence campaign. Supplied

The following film in 2019, Honourable Warrior, starring Cambodian martial arts legend Chan Rothana and singer, songwriter and film star Nov Dana, gained 1.3 million views and won another five international awards.

This year, Not Her Fault, which focusses on domestic violence awareness and victim-blaming, is expected to achieve even higher than the previous campaigns.

This short film says that the proverb – ‘Without the hook, the fruit does not fall’ – should not be used in the context of domestic violence, because it is wrong to blame the victim.

Instead, Gorter says: “Women should be empowered to take action, and should be supported by the people and structures around them.”

Khmer celebrities also lend their weight to the message. Social media influencer Bormey Vannak says: “No one should be made to feel guilty for wearing what makes them feel good. More importantly, no one should be blamed for harassment, assault and abuse because of their clothing.”

Owner of Facebook page ‘Switching’ and women’s rights activist Neary Seth –  whose name translates to ‘women’s rights’ – asks: “If it is her fault, then who is responsible for her loss?”

The film is part of the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence campaign that has just taken place online – the planned physical event in Siem Reap had to be cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Gorter has also organised a virtual online exhibition as a finale to the campaign which begins today to coincide with International Human Rights Day.

Cambodian women submitted their personal stories for the exhibition through various online platforms, together with photographs and descriptions of the clothes they were wearing during their experiences of gender-based violence. TLC selected 24 of the stories to create an interactive, online exhibition that takes place at inside a virtual house. Visitors to the website can explore the house as well as interact, read and listen to each story, either in Khmer or English.

Executive director of This Life Cambodia Billy Gorter. Supplied

The exhibition can be viewed via: www.thislife.ngo/notherfault

Solving the issue of domestic violence has long been a driving force for Gorter and his organisation.

“Mention Cambodia to anyone who has been there and they’ll probably tell you about Angkor Wat,” Gorter says. “Lesser known is that this small Southeast Asian nation is hiding some deeply shocking domestic violence statistics. These are numbers that would warrant a national crisis if they were happening elsewhere.”

“One in three men admits to having used violence against a woman. Factor in the ambiguity of admission and the real numbers are likely to be much higher,” he adds.

“One in four women has been a victim, and of these victims, 40 percent consider domestic violence to be a normal part of family life. With numbers this high it’s easy, although tragic, to see how domestic violence has become normalised,” he adds.

Gorter left Australia in 2006, after having worked in social research and project development in Melbourne, to work with the NGO Globalteer as project coordinator. In December 2007, he founded TLC, which quickly developed into an internationally recognised organisation.

TLC started with two people working in Gorter’s living room and grew to a staff of ninety working from offices in Siem Reap province and Phnom Penh. He has helped thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of villagers along the way, alongside industry leaders, powerful politicians and ambassadors. The NGO has also won many awards including the prestigious Stars Impact Award in 2015 and the Global Grassroots Justice Prize last year.

“Cambodia has changed a lot in the 13 years since I came here, making progress in mostly wonderful ways and I’m extremely happy that these days, when I speak to young people about their hopes for the next five years, they can usually come up with an answer,” Gorter says. “I am proud that we have played a role
in this progress, largely through our amazing staff personally transforming tens of thousands of lives.”


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