White Ribbon Campaign Kicks Off Across Country

Do Khmer traditions get in the way of gender equality? Should a woman who relies on her husband’s income complain to police if he beats her?

These are some of the questions Phnom Penh students, speaking after Wednesday’s launch of the 16-day White Rib­bon Campaign to eliminate violence against women and children, thought would make interesting starting points for an online conversation about violence.

As a part of the campaign, local NGO People Health Development Association is working with students at six universities around the city to raise awareness of gender violence, through plays, quiz shows, debates and online social networking.

“We can post a question related to violence on Facebook and we will discuss online,” said Kao Kolvorn, a 20-year-old student at Wednes­day’s launch of the National Institute of Education. “It is hard to change perspectives, but we have no choice but to join the cause; violence against women is unacceptable.”

Sy Define, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said she backed the campaign wholeheartedly but admitted she did not have an account on the Internet social networking service Facebook.

“I am not so familiar with Face­book,” she said. “But I encourage young people to raise awareness however they can.”

Also as part of the campaign, representatives from Gender and Development for Cambodia, government partners and the Cam­bodian Men’s network planned yesterday to visit prisoners and prison guards in Kompong Cham’s Cor­rectional Center 3.

“We will pin white ribbons as well as hand educational leaflets to prison guards,” said Put Sopheak, program officer at GADC, on Wed­nesday. According to the campaign’s website, wearing a ribbon symbolizes “a personal pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.”

“We received information…there is a lot of violence among the prison guards’ families in Correction Center 3,” he said.

The working group is also meeting with more than 100 police, local people and local authorities at Tbong Khmum district police headquarters to encourage full implementation of the 2005 law on the prevention of domestic violence, he added.


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