PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Many Cambodian women are scared to report rapes and sexual violence – but according to the joint winners of this year’s VXW Award, phone applications soon could be the best weapon for women to escape rape and other types of gender-based violence.
In a four-minute online video commemorating their recent win, Cambodian women’s advocates Sum Dany, Phat Sreytouch and Bunn Rachana discuss the huge issue of gender-based violence in Cambodia and the potential power of social media to bring about positive changes in the lives of Cambodia’s most vulnerable people.
Last Friday, the Asia Foundation of Cambodia in partnership with Golden Gekko and Sabay Digital Corp launched the VXW Award, funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.
The ceremony celebrated the commitment of the three young winners to finding new solutions to fight violence against women. Throughout the year, the award will provide technical and economic support to the winners to develop, test and perfect potential apps.
Ms. Rachana, who is a program officer with ActionAid Cambodia, a human rights lawyer and a housing and land rights activist, explains in the video that women are scared to report inappropriate and violent behavior. “Women working in bars and the entertainment industry are scared they will lose their jobs if they complain,” she said.
She added that married women are also reluctant to report violence because they fear divorce could mean they will be left solely responsible for raising their children. In addition, she believes that most women feel reporting the offences will cause them to suffer indignity in their communities.
“Technology can help in tackling violence against women and keep people updated on the situation,” commented the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Ing Kantha Phavi during the award ceremony.
The minister stressed the fact that in a country where 3.8 million people regularly use the Internet and 1.8 million people are active users on Facebook, technology and smart phones are no longer confined to entertainment and communication purposes, but they can also be a strong informative instrument and promoter of social change.
“We are in the design phase of the project, but hopefully by the end of March, there will be apps in Khmer focused on different areas,” Erin Bourgois, Program Advisor from the Asia Foundation told Khmer Times.
Ms. Bourgois also explained that some of the topics would be related to domestic violence prevention, which is the area of expertise of Ms. Dany, who is a recent law graduate from the Royal University of Law and Economics as well as a blogger and an activist engaged in women’s rights groups and networks.
Safety in Public App
Other apps will focus on safety in public places, where women in danger would be able to send their Global Positioning System (GPS) location and notify friends and family about their problem with pre-programmed messages.
“It takes time to change people’s mindsets,” said Ms. Rachana. “Efforts have to start from women themselves, who need to realize that we are all equal citizens of society, they need to take their own decisions and find opportunities to generate an income, being independent from their husbands.”
Safety in the Work Place App
Another app will focus on strengthening safety security in work places for sector workers, including beer promotion girls, waitresses, karaoke singers and more. Ms. Sreytouch, one of the three award winners, is a former beer promoter herself. As a committee member of the Solidarity Association of Beer Promoters in Cambodia, she now advocates and gives voice for their rights, safety and security in the workplace.
Calling All Men
Finally, Ms. Dany stressed the crucial role that men can play towards this battle against gender-based violence.
“When I go to the communities to raise awareness towards violence against women, I always invite men as well but very few join because they think that this is an issue only related to women,” she said.