Social Media Can Still Be A Force For Good

May 9th was an exciting night for This Life Cambodia. Our social media campaign designed to raise awareness of the problem of domestic violence in Cambodia, and to provide information on the law and places to get help, was named as Best Social Media Campaign Of 2019 at the Australian Not For Profit Technology Awards, beating out some very tough competition from across Australia and New Zealand.

Winning an award like this is, of course, a great honor, a wonderful experience and a fantastic thank you for the many people at This Life Cambodia who worked hard to make the campaign a success. It’s also a deserved reward for Manan Trust, who believed in the cause and campaign and funded it. But it is also important for us as proof of something that we believe at This Life Cambodia, that social media can still be a force for positive change, especially in Cambodia, and especially if used creatively. We have seen many news stories in recent years on the destructive potential of social media, but we know it doesn’t have to be this way.

Our campaign was called End Violence Together and was inspired by the fact that although more than 1 in 5 Cambodian women faces violence, just 24% ever seek any help. The reason for that is, at least partly, that just 8% of the population understands there is a law to protect women and children from violence.

In order to raise awareness of the law and change attitudes, we needed to create change on a national scale. We believed social media was the secret to achieving this. According to Hootsuite research from January 2018, 7 million Cambodians then used social media, a growth of 43% in 2017, with experts believing the figure is now more than 8 million. More significantly, research by Lotus Media found that 79% of Cambodian Facebook users believe it “empowers me to support causes I care about”, compared to 53% globally.

We believed TLC’s credibility from a decade of grassroots experience working with hundreds of domestic violence survivors, coupled with creative use of social media to engage Cambodians eager to help their country develop, could catalyze real change.

We took an instantly identifiable and iconic national object – the crash helmet, ubiquitous in Cambodia where motorbikes vastly outnumber cars – then subverted expectations. In our short film, we created an alternate universe where women and children didn’t wear helmets outside to protect themselves from road accidents but wore them inside their homes to protect themselves from violence. Our film and all following campaign posts then led viewers to our campaign page which was full of real-world protection, such as information on the law (including Cambodia’s first audio version, created in-house) and places to get help.

To carry the message to as many people as possible we recruited a range of influential Cambodians with very different audiences to record video or photographic messages of support alongside our orange helmet. The final result was that more than 1 million watched our film, nearly 10,000 people shared the campaign and 13,000 went to our campaign page to learn more about the help which is available. We know from comments we saw publicly and received privately that there were people who were inspired to change their lives as a result.

You can watch the video which launched the campaign and visits our campaign page at www.thislifecambodia.org/endviolencetogether to learn more.

We would like to say thank you to the award judges, thank you to all the influential Cambodians and partners who helped us spread the message voluntarily, thank you to our funders and partners, and most of all thank you to the nearly 10,000 people who shared the campaign and made it a success.

This award has made us even more determined to stay creative in the ways we work and campaign for change. As ever, we are excited about the future.

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