Using accessible media tools to promote social change and the situation of women in a male-dominated society

The Women’s Media Centre of Cambodia (WMC) uses accessible media tools, such as the radio and television, to address issues affecting women in Cambodia and to raise awareness and stimulate social change in Cambodian society.

In Cambodia, women routinely suffer from abuse and discrimination. Although females outnumber males in Cambodia today, they have previously had little voice in the media, political arena, and society in general, with mainstream media reinforcing the objectification of women as victims or sex objects. With its straightforward, easy to understand programs, WMC educates, informs, and advises both male and female audiences.

An example of WMC’s use of media to reverse the gender-representation disparity in Cambodia is its presentation of video and radio programs on sex trafficking that depict the terrible conditions of sex brothels, the tricks that traffickers use to abduct, lure, and deceive women, and the recently adopted Cambodian Law on the Trafficking/Sale of Human Persons and Exploitation of Human persons (UNIFEM, Online).  The video and radio spot was shown nationwide three or four days a week in a short or long term period, depending on the partner’s requirement.  Thanks to WMC’s specific focus on women’s issues, women have increased their awareness of issues that directly and indirectly affect them.  

In Cambodia, virtually every community, even the poorest, most remote village, has access to television or radio. WMC operates a radio station, FM 102, and produces video and television programs.  FM 102 has the capacity to reach a wide audience, especially those in remote areas, and airs 7 days a week, from 6am to 9pm.  The station has educational programs, live news, bulletins, live debates, input from women themselves, dramas, and women’s programmes that discuss issues such as sex trafficking, violence, abuse, property rights of women, health, and social issues which benefit women.  Additionally, WMC produces a weekly 15-minute television series that is broadcast on national and provincial stations and that depicts, in detail, the issues facing women.  

WMC has helped improve the participation and portrayal of women in the mainstream media.  Today, FM 102 can be heard by close to 60 percent of the population in 11 of the 23 Cambodian provinces.  In addition, over 90% of the people WMC interviewed said that they have watched WMC’s programs.  Based on WMC’s interviews with a cross-section of Cambodian citizens on the sex trafficking radio and television programs for example, approximately 9 out of 10 respondents had seen the video and a majority could cite specific information from the programs.  In addition, the vice-mayor of Phnom Penh, prompted by the sex trafficking television program, called together a meeting of 50 district chiefs, police commissioners, and NGO representatives and ordered the police to act strongly against sex trafficking.  As a result of that, 400 women and children were rescued from brothels and at least 35 brothel owners were jailed (UNIFEM, Online).

WMC is a local non-governmental organization that was officially established in 1995, working in media production, research, networking, and service-providing.  WMC’s staff is entirely comprised of women, and it is the only women’s media group in the country.  Today, the Cambodian government has recognized WMC as a partner in improving the status of women in the media.

 

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

In thinking about how to implement this tactic of using the media to promote human rights, it is important to keep in mind that 1) it does not have to be about women’s issues directed at women; 2) the media can play a very influential role; 3) the support of the government may be needed (in the case of Cambodia, all kinds of media are set up with the Ministry of Information’s approval); 4) the involvement of both male and female audience in radio and television talks is important; 5) maintaining public support is necessary; 6) the process of changing already accepted norms in the media, such as the portrayal of women, is slow; and 7) the government may impose restrictions or a lack of access to information depending on the country’s press laws.  In addition, it should be noted that the lack of affiliation with a political party strengthens the credibility of and support for an organization such as WMC.