In celebration of the annual international campaign, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, community development organisation This Life Cambodia (TLC) released a new ad designed to discourage men from violent behaviour – the “Honourable Warrior”.
Drawing inspiration from the old proverb, “Cambodians have the blood of warriors in their veins”, which hark back to the glory days of the Khmer empire, the video features Cambodian boxer and mixed martial arts star Chan Rothana.
“I am very proud to be a part of this wonderful campaign as it is a cause I fully support,” writes Rothana on his Facebook page. “I have been practising Kun Khmer since I was young and it taught me never to use violence outside the ring and to show respect to others, especially women.”
The ad which lasts for two minutes has gone viral on social media, amassing a million views, 10,000 shares, and 34,000 likes. Hundreds of positive comments for the campaign have also poured in to show support to the ad’s narrative.
One Facebook user Hengchea says: “As a Cambodian, I’d like to join in and extend my wholehearted support to such a meaningful campaign. I’d also like to call for the rekindling of the Cambodian spirit of togetherness, especially among the new generation . . . [so] we can all live in peace and happiness.”
Sam, another Facebook user, expressed appreciation for the ad: “This campaign ad really touched my heart. It’s about time someone made it.”
The ad cites that one in three Cambodian men admits to having committed physical or sexual violence against their partners at least once in their lifetime.
The campaign aims to reawaken the Honourable Warrior in each man, a person who protects women and children and never hurts them.
“It is shocking that one in three Cambodian men admits to using violence against women and it’s time to stop it. Please be an honourable warrior and promise never to hurt women,” says Rothana.
Much like the previous End Violence Together campaign, TLC has consistently run programmes that promote the prevention of domestic violence, working with thousands of vulnerable women, students, children and local authorities to tackle the root causes of violence.
“Domestic violence isn’t limited to Cambodia; it’s a global problem. Research shows that one in three women across the world has been a victim of domestic violence at some point in their life. It’s time for this to stop, and that means that men have to change.
TLC founder and executive director Billy Gorter says: “We all need to work together, men and women alike, to say that we won’t tolerate this. Not in Cambodia, not in any country.
“We’re glad that men are sharing this message in huge numbers. That’s a step forward, although we still have a long way to go.”
In the ad, the viewer sees Rothana preparing for a fight and people filing in with excitement to watch the impending match. Rothana steps inside the ring and turns to see his opponent – a frightened woman played by actress Nov Dana.
As the audience’s excitement turns to horror and anger, Rothana refuses to fight and instead helps the woman to her feet. The gesture gains the applause of the audience and earns him the belt of the Honourable Warrior.
“The message is clear”, says Gorter, “while many people enjoy watching men show off their strength in the sports arena, they reject its use in their homes”.
This is not about simple awareness-raising, clarifies TLC, adding that the Cambodian people have been asked to sign up to three Honourable Warrior pledges – to never use violence against the vulnerable, to show respect for all and to bring up their children with the same values.
The pledges were endorsed by 22,500 Facebook users who were then asked to join Facebook group, Honourable Warriors.
“We’re extremely happy that Cambodian men backed this campaign so enthusiastically, especially the thousands of ordinary men who shared our video and campaign materials,” says TLC deputy director Se Chhin.
TLC says the campaign features a range of celebrity Honourable Warriors chosen to appeal to different groups of men, led by Rothana and joined by the likes of Cambodian national footballer Thierry Chantha Bin, singer Vuthea and rappers Reezy, Vitou and Ruthko.
Women have also laid claim to the Honourable Warrior belt, including bokator fighter and actress Tharoth Sam, rapper Sang Sok Serey and women’s rights activist Catherine Harry.
“We know that a lot of Cambodian men idolise Chan Rothana, so we were very grateful that he agreed to star in our video and speak out, [thus] inspiring his followers. [We are] also grateful to the other influential Cambodian personalities who agreed to pose with our Honourable Warrior belt.
“Domestic violence is a terrible problem that blights whole families and communities. It is time for it to end everywhere in the world, and it is up to men to do that.
“I hope that by backing this campaign and becoming Honourable Warriors, Cambodian men will lead the way in eradicating violence against women,” says Chhin.
This year’s international 16-day campaign against gender-based violence opened on November 5 and ends on Tuesday.
Besides the campaign video, TLC had also organised several rallies in local communities where women, girls, and some men, all came together to express opposition to domestic violence.