Radio and the internet are being used to combat violence against Cambodian women in a scheme to mark today’s International Women’s Day. The Open Institute Organisation in cooperation with the Ministries of Women’s Affairs and Education and other NGOs has launched a campaign to use information communications technology to reach women through radio shows, cell phones and the internet.
Executive Director of Open Institute Organisation Chim Manavy gave The Phnom Penh Post an exclusive interview revealing how Cambodian women are using new technology to fight an old problem.
What is the current level of violence against Cambodian women?
We haven’t yet got any specific data on the decrease or increase of violence against women because we have not yet been able to carry out any national research yet. Some NGOs have published research but that was mostly focused on domestic violence.
If we talk about rape, violence against women seems not to have improved as we have seen through media reports recently.
Violence against women here is not only about domestic violence, but also about physical violence, spiritual violence, economical violence, and damage to reputation. These are all issues that have not been much talked about.
How can ICT help?
ICT stands for Information Communication Technologies which widely focus on media and forums that we use to communicate and transmit the information. For example, we use old technologies such as radio or television to reach rural women, where radio is their most important source of information. New technologies focus on digital transmitters like cell phones and the internet.
How many Cambodian women can access ICT?
Our organisation conducted research in 2010 which has not yet been published. According to that research, the percentage of Cambodian women employed in NGOs who can access ICT is 44 percent. In the public sector, 15.5 percent have access to ICT. In private companies, 32.5 percent of women had access to the internet, while 33.3 percent of university students have access to the internet. However, compared to the number of people who can use ICT, only 6.9 percent of women can use a computer professionally, while only 33 percent of men can use a computer in their professional jobs.
How is ICT important to combat violence against women?
The importance of ICT depends on how people use it. In Cambodia, people use the radio much more than the internet. The more we use ICT, the more information we can get. There’s a saying that information is power.
When women can access ICT, they’ll have more power because ICT can help women gather useful information and give more women a voice, no matter who they are or where they are from.
Moreover, ICT can let women create their own social networks to combine their human resources and financial resources to support any developing strategy such as education or business. It can also help them find support from health, gender, legal services, and so on that can save them time and money.
In addition, communication between men and women through ICT can let men know about differing needs between men and women that can also help to reduce gender stereotypes.
What has your organisation done for this campaign?
We have our website http://women.open.org.kh where we’ve posted all relevant information about women in Khmer that we’ve collected from our staff and other media institutions. We’ve linked our website to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to share the information among men and women to let them share their comments and suggestions.
During the international 16-day campaign called Take Back The Tech in November last, we also encouraged women who posted the most comments on our website and links by giving them a T-shirt.
Moreover, we’ve also published books, bulletins, and posters that have the contact details of services that are useful for women when they are facing violence issues.
What do you expect from this campaign in the future?
For this year and next year, we are still sharing ICT among more Cambodian women and finding the roots of women’s issues. We will cooperate with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to organise a centre in Cambodia called Gender Observatory to reduce the gender gap in society.
Besides this campaign, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs also organised a forum at Pannhasastra University last Wednesday to discuss women’s rights among about 320 students and lecturers.