Campaigning for change in Cambodia

5 December 2017

CARE Cambodia has a focus on programs for socially and ethnically marginalised women, and in her role as Marketing Advisor (Women's Advocacy) Sara worked closely with staff to improve the quality of their communication materials and to help take their behaviour change campaigns to the next level. She encouraged teams to approach campaigns in different ways, starting with what they wanted to achieve and who they wanted to reach.

Sara considers her work on the #WhyStop campaign the biggest achievement of her time with CARE Cambodia.

"The campaign was to engage young men in preventing sexual harassment in their communities," explains Sara. "I leveraged the local insights that young men listen most to other young men … and that until young men understand the impact sexual harassment has on women, they will not change their behaviour."

The #WhyStop Short Film Competition invited young men to talk to their female family and friends about sexual harassment and then make a short film to explain to their peers why it must stop. The competition was funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, with support from the Australian Government, and was launched through a nationwide roadshow. One thousand young Cambodians were prompted to get involved in making 50 original short film entries, which were published and promoted on CARE Cambodia's Facebook page.

Meeting communities during the #WhyStop Short Film Competition Roadshow. Photo provided by Sara Denby.

#WhyStop engaged 1.9 million individuals on Facebook, with a media reach of more than six million. The films have been shared thousands of times in Cambodia and the campaign has been shared globally by CARE, DFAT and UN Women.

These achievements are impressive in themselves, but the efforts of the CARE Cambodia team were further rewarded by a personal request from the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, to develop a #WhyStop in Schools sexual harassment prevention pack for secondary schools.

"Designed with the #WhyStop finalist films at its core, this multi-media classroom teaching tool is being piloted in 12 secondary schools, prior to national rollout across Cambodia," explains Sara. "Presenting this package to the Ministry alongside my CARE counterpart was one of the proudest moments of my assignment."

It has been a rewarding 18 months for Sara. "I've learned that my campaign communication skills are definitely transferable but... I am more conscious of seeing things through the Western lens than I ever was before, and hesitate to assess anything based on appearances" Sara reflects.

"The local cultural context, overlaid with realities like entrenched corruption and family obligations, means that what we think we understand is not often what is actually going on – and therefore cannot necessarily be addressed with Western ideology. This was a fascinating, sometimes unnerving, but ultimately rewarding lesson that I will carry with me."

CARE Cambodia’s team at the #WhyStop Awards Night. Photo provided by Sara Denby.
Last Updated: 4 December 2017
Sara Denby