This Life creates first of its kind virtual exhibition during 2020 campaign to end gender-based abuse
At This Life we closely monitor local social media as it helps us to understand the issues that are important to Cambodian people. In September 2020, Kanhchna Chet, a young, well-known Cambodian singer posted a Facebook video where she spoke about being harassed by a man on a motorbike at 10 am one morning as she was going home from the gym. We noted that her story resonated with many Cambodian women who posted comments expressing their outrage. There was a small but strong current of support for Kanhchna when she directly confronted suggestions that her choice of clothing was the reason for the attack.
We wanted to understand more about the prevalence of victim-blaming, and in particular, blame associated with choice of clothing. We conducted internal and external focus groups, and we found that the culture of victim-blaming was very much woven into the fabric of the lives of Cambodian women. Further to this, we discovered that traditional proverbs were frequently used to justify victim-blaming. One proverb, in particular, stood out: Without the hook, the fruit does not fall. This proverb, and the way it associates behaviour and blame was something we wanted to confront head-on. Our rebuttal to the incorrect association of the proverb evolved into the tagline: Not Her Fault. This formed the basis of our 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-based Violence campaign for 2020. We approached Kanhchna and asked her to champion our campaign, and our depiction of her story became the central image for Not Her Fault.
The social media campaign
Our goal was to reach as many Cambodians as possible. We launched Not Her Fault on 25 November 2020 with a short film of the same name. The film asked viewers to be supportive of women rather than blaming them when they are victims of harassment, violence, and abuse. After the film was released, we featured Cambodian influencers on Facebook along with statements they had made in support of the campaign. They were photographed holding clothes with an orange tag attached. The text on the tag reads #NotHerFault. Some of these influencers wanted to take their involvement further, and they are featured talking about victim-blaming in the second video produced for the campaign.
The Not Her Fault short film was released on Facebook on 25 November, and by 10 December it had been viewed 1.44 million times. We also posted an additional 32 pieces of content over the 16 day period. These posts covered resources for women experiencing domestic violence, fact sheets, places to go for support, a quiz-based challenge, and many others designed to get people thinking about their experiences of victim-blaming. The posts had a combined reach of nearly 4 million, and This Life’s Facebook fan base has grown nearly 15% throughout the campaign. We have received hundreds of comments and messages from people who have seen the campaign and support its call to end victim-blaming in Cambodia.
The interactive, virtual exhibition
Through collaborations with two Facebook pages that facilitate anonymous contributions, we invited women in Cambodia to submit stories describing their own experiences of harassment, violence, or abuse. Along with their stories, women were asked to include a description of the clothes they were wearing at the time. We collated the stories and used them to create an interactive, online exhibition that is set at different times of day inside a Cambodian house. Visitors to the exhibition website can explore the house and find the women’s clothes. They can interact with the clothes and read or listen to the associated story, either in Khmer or English. This exhibition uses the words and voices of Cambodian women to tell their own stories in their own language.
Public support and appreciation for the exhibition have been very strong. His Excellency W. Patrick Murphy, US Ambassador to Cambodia Tweeted, ‘This is a very powerful and creative virtual exhibition. An important contribution from @TLCambodia to helping end violence against women and girls.’ Sopheap Chak from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights Tweeted, ‘Impressive exhibition. A culture that allows women to be blamed for violence against them and encourages such language, reinforces abuse on women and victims. Cambodia’s culture of victim-blaming can be ignored no more.’
We are pleased that the exhibition has been so well received, and we are also proud and honoured that we have been able to amplify the voices of Cambodian women to an international audience.
We asked women in 🇰🇭 to submit their stories of harassment, violence and abuse along with the clothes they were wearing at the time. We used them to make this 360 exhibition. Explore the house. Find the clothes. Discover the stories. #16Days @AusEmbPP https://t.co/ZBlP9RdnZ8
— This Life (@TLCambodia) December 10, 2020
Thank you Manan Trust and Ave Fenix Pacific Foundation for making this campaign possible.
Selected media coverage of Not Her Fault
Phnom Penh Post: TLC addresses harassment through virtual exhibition
Khmer Times: This Life Cambodia address gender based violence through cinema
Cambodianess: Not Her Fault: A Campaign to end the Victim-blaming culture
2019 Honourable Warrior Campaign
2018 Protection Campaign