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New York, New York Global honour for TLC

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The orange helmet symbolises the protection that women and children deserve against domestic violence.. Supplied

This Life Cambodia (TLC) has won the global Grassroots Justice Prize, winning the public vote ahead of 200 organisations, in an announcement made at a prestigious ceremony at a United Nations event in New York on July 15.

The Siem Reap-based NGO, which garnered 70% of the thousands of votes placed worldwide, beat four other public finalists from the USA, Guatemala, Liberia and Kenya to take home the trophy and a prize package worth more than $4,000.

More than 200 organisations from 65 countries entered the only award given out to organisations supporting people facing serious challenges by putting the power of the law in their hands.

All entrants went through a rigorous assessment by a panel of judges, which included detailed evidence and reference checking. Three organisations were granted prizes directly, while five other NGOs competed in a 10-day public vote for the fourth prize.

TLC won this public vote, and was thus recognized by both the judges and the public.

“This prize celebrates justice heroes from civil society who work with courage and creativity and commitment. These people give me the shivers,” said Vivek Maru, the CEO of awards organisers Namati, introducing the awards ceremony at the United Nations High Political Forum.

Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said of TLC’s work, “wow.”

TLC won the award for its entire range of programs focusing on Cambodian people’s rights, although special attention was paid to the social campaign to stop domestic violence. This campaign already won the Best Social Media Campaign of the Year award at the Not For Profit Technology Awards in Australia and is shortlisted for two Social Media Marketing Awards in August.

The team behind This Life Cambodia and the award-winning social media campaign. Supplied

One Justice Prize judge said: “Among the outstanding aspects of this organization: well-framed research to lay the groundwork for practical work and creative outreach utilising internet, and audio versions to empower the illiterate and PR with celebrities.”

The End Violence Together social media campaign ran for 16 days in November and December 2018 and went viral, with a reach of almost 4 million on Facebook alone, and with a flagship video viewed more than 1 million times. It led to more than 13,000 Cambodians seeking help and information at a specially created website featuring easy read versions of the law against domestic violence, an audio version of the law, a downloadable digital helmet and links to places to get help.

The campaign was driven by a creative video which grabbed attention and provoked conversation by imagining a world where women and children didn’t wear helmets outside to protect themselves from road accidents, but wore them inside their homes to protect from violence.

In addition to the video, many well-known Cambodians volunteered to record videos and messages of support to promote the campaign including feminist social media star Catherine Harry, pop singers Nikki Nikki and Oun, and the actress and singer Yan Linda.

The campaign had to be creative to reach people as social attitudes about domestic violence are widespread and entrenched. Over 20% of Cambodian women experience domestic violence, but just 24% seek help, 40% saying they don’t seek help because they consider such violence “normal”.

The campaign gets support from celebs like Yan Linda. Supplied

Worse, just 8% of Cambodians know that the 2005 law on domestic violence protects women and children from violence. The campaign led to greatly increased awareness of the law and TLC received messages publicly and privately from victims of violence saying they’d been inspired to take action. Its campaign materials were so effective that other NGOs and government bodies requested to use them in events/campaigns of their own, and the film was shared globally.

Credit goes to people’s passion

Billy Gorter, executive director of TLC, said “Winning the Grassroots Justice Prize is one of the greatest honours of our 11 years working in Cambodia, and will encourage all of our incredible team to work even harder for the rights of Cambodians to create a better future for themselves.”

“It’s a recognition not just of our work but also of the Cambodian people’s passion and desire for change. If Cambodians hadn’t engaged with our campaign’s message and shared, commented and talked about it in such huge numbers, and if thousands hadn’t voted for us for this award, then we wouldn’t have won. We are grateful and even more committed to our mission as a result.”

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