The Open Institute NGO has launched a crowdsourced gender-based violence mapping tool in Cambodia to promote and protect women rights. Notably, gender-based violence has remained a significant issue in Cambodia. A UN report highlighted the problem of demostic violence and gender-based violence against sex workers, most-at-risk young people, and women living with HIV.
Manavy Chim, the Executive Director of the Open Institute who spent more than 20 years working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before joining civil society, echoes the need for public awareness about the issue of violence against women and how new technologies and the Internet can be tapped to address the problem. Below is the author's e-mail conversation with her:
What problem is your project aiming to overcome? Why this online mapping method?
The Open Institute believes that the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is an ideal way to bring awareness to this issue on a public level and the use of the Ushahidi mapping tool is a critical part of the process. The Ushahidi mapping tool offers both government officials and key stakeholders the opportunity to track incidences of gender based violence online in a way that can be viewed by the public in order to increase awareness and work toward immediate intervention and prevention methods.
What are the biggest obstacles to your success?
The main obstacle to the success of the Gender Based Violence project was the limited amount of resources available within the Cambodian provinces. The Commune/Sangak councilors are not well versed with technology and do not necessarily have access to computers or Internet services. Not all of the members of rural communities are literate, either, so it will be important to incorporate forms of technology (television, radio, etc.) that do not require the ability to read in order to continue to spread the message. This is particularly true for females in rural Cambodian communities, due in large part to the traditional role separation between men and women. In addition to the lack of resources, a cultural sensitivity to sharing information about gender based violence was an obstacle during this project. Some of the respondents were not comfortable sharing information, so some of the data was incomplete.
Finally, the end of the project overlapped with the upcoming Cambodian elections, and many Commune/Sangkat councilors became difficult to reach because they were involved in other projects. In order to be more effective, the project needed to be extended and the timing probably should have been adjusted to avoid the election cycle.
How does the information published on your website turn into offline change?
The information published on the Open Institute website, through the Women's Web Portal and through the Ushahidi mapping tool is mean to increase awareness and promote action around issues related to gender based violence. The more people know about gender based violence and the more aware they are of prevention and intervention methods, the better able they will be to help victims and ultimately put an end to this problem.
In addition, the Open Institute hopes that by publishing information on our website, the public will see it and promote the information through various sources of social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) The Open Institute knows that Cambodian youth hold the key to stopping gender based violence in the future, so increasing their awareness of the issue now will ultimately lead to action based results going forward.
The Open Institute also understands, though, that we cannot only post information via social media outlets because we need to reach a wider audience. The information posted on our web site, therefore, is also published by various forms of print media. This creates the opportunity for people who are not able to use the Internet to also access the same information.
What are the incentives for the public to participate in your project?
The most significant incentive for public participation in the Gender Based Violence project is an increased level of awareness of and knowledge about issues related to violence against women within Cambodian society. Not only will this help government officials and individuals who work in organizations that help women, but it will also help friends and family members of victims to gain a better understanding of how they can help and what they can do to prevent this issue from continuing in the future.
In addition, another incentive for public participation in this project is the opportunity to network and discuss significant societal issues with other people from various organizations around the country. Participation in national forums about gender based violence and the use of ICT to combat violence against women is an excellent way to become more educated about this current hot topic within Cambodian society.
What has been the most effective method of spreading awareness about your project?
The most effective method of spreading awareness about the Gender Based Violence project has been through the various forums held by the Open Institute and its partners throughout the past year.
The OI has received a significant amount of positive feedback from forum attendees, noting that after attending the forum, they felt better informed about issues related to gender based violence and better prepared to teach others within their local communities about the problems in order to work toward eliminating gender based violence going forward.
What is your message to the public?
The overall message to the public from the Open Institute's Gender Based Violence project team is that violence against women is a significant problem in Cambodia, but it is a problem that can be solved. The use of Information and Communication Technologies will be critical to putting an end to gender based violence in Cambodia, so we need to increase the level of public awareness about issues related to violence against women and we need to teach our fellow Cambodians, through open and transparent communication methods, about ways to combat this violence going forward. Everyone is an agent to break silence to speak out about GBV and that GBV cannot be tolerated.