16 Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women in Cambodia

5 Things to Know When Designing an App for Ending Violence Against Women

One year ago, the Cambodian government officially launched its second National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women (NAPVAW), reinforcing its commitment to eliminating violence against women. Back in the early 1990s The Asia Foundation broke ground with a landmark study on the underlying causes of domestic violence in Cambodia. Despite some areas of progress, violence against women is still an endemic issue in Cambodia, with a quarter of all women having experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence. Further, as rapid socio-economic development and poverty reduction increase opportunities for women and girls, new vulnerabilities arise. Not only is violence against women a severe rights abuse, the costs of violence constitute a major impediment to Cambodia’s further social and economic development.

Inspired by Cambodia’s rapid adoption of technology and social media (a recent Asia Foundation research report found 94 percent of Cambodians now own a mobile phone, with smartphone growth at 30 percent) local activists and the international community have begun pursuing innovative online and mobile solutions as part of broader efforts to combat violence against women. With support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) six months ago, at the culmination of a process driven and designed by local activists at the Cambodia Young Women Empowerment Network for communities most impacted by violence against women, The Asia Foundation launched the first mobile applications to help combat violence against women (explore the initiative at in Cambodia. The applications offer features including legal information, peer support, anonymous reporting, and personal network alerts.

The method we used to support the activists was at its essence a process of trial and error of Human Centered Design (HCD). We started by working with committed activists who had come up with the idea for an app after meeting with women in rural areas who confirmed just how prevalent domestic violence is. We then adopted a design toolkit from, and engaged a skilled design facilitator to help us fill in gaps in our app expertise. The results of our work produced not only four new apps, but an invaluable set of learning points.

From this intensive process we developed the first-ever one-stop-shop for mobile solutions to end violence against women, which includes a step-by-step guide and set of recommendations for those embarking on designing apps for improving the safety and security of women and girls.

Here are five key takeaways when designing a mobile app for EVAW:

Mobile Apps Are Not a Silver Bullet: Whether an app focuses on prevention, protection, or response, there are complementary interventions required to combat violence against women. (See the Learning Product). While apps can be a powerful tool, especially in countries with high mobile penetration rates, other interventions are essential, including, for example: peer-to-peer education, counseling, and alcohol abuse reduction programs. In addition, apps are not value neutral. There are unique privacy concerns. Data stored in the apps could potentially be accessed by a perpetrator, or even the visible presence of the app on the phone itself could be used to threaten the user and increase the risk of abuse.

Using Human Centered Design (HCD) Does Not Guarantee Instant Success for an App: HCD is a framework for designing solutions that are responsive to the unique needs and aspirations of the people they are meant to serve, and it is a common methodology for designing solutions. Based on our experience, HCD is an invaluable methodology to help ensure that the voices of the end users are included in solutions for EVAW. But in order for the process to be as powerful as its potential, it requires a firm commitment to engaging end users throughout the design process. Understand the time, resources, and user-involvement requirements before starting to design an app will help sustain commitment (see the step-by-step guide).

Be Prepared and Get Your Users on Board: Like many applications, EVAW apps require investments to maintain complex backend systems and websites. Allow time to conduct in-depth research into potential providers of these services and the exact costs associated with them. Often there are hidden costs. Also, if an app is driven by content that needs to be updated regularly, ensure reliable systems are in place to do so. It is important to note that apps for EVAW get downloaded and updated less frequently than the industry average, and some very rarely (See Summary Report). If your goal is to assist an organization or an individual activist, it is critical that they understand, trust, and buy into the process and time requirements.

Other Solutions May Already Exist: Examine existing apps to see if anything resembling your solution already exists (see App Inventory) or if it would be possible to adapt what already exists rather than creating a whole new app. If a particular app does not yet exist, could an existing app or intervention be adapted to serve that function?

The App May Become a Challenge Unto Itself: “Given the speed with which these technologies are developing, it is perhaps unsurprising that there is little evidence regarding their effectiveness” – STATT Report (2014). The most complex design challenge is likely to be promotion and sustainability of the apps themselves. The more specific the app is for EVAW or a subset of users, the more challenging the app will be to get sufficient uptake to sustain the app moving forward.

Ending violence against women in Cambodia is both crucial and complex, and requires a multipronged approach. While technology solutions alone won’t solve the problem, we can significantly lower the barriers to bring mobile technology closer to the front lines for those who are combatting violence against women.

Setha Rath is a Program Officer in The Asia Foundation’s Cambodia office. She can be reached at The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.


Spotlighting violence against women, Cambodia’s biggest event under the 16 Days Campaign took place in Phnom Penh, Sunday the 6th of December.  In a sea of orange, Cambodia danced to end violence against women.  

“Today we color the city of Phnom Penh orange” The United Nations Resident Coordinator Claire Van der Vaeren emphasized the collective response to violence when speaking at the event. “If we all work together, from women to men, youth activists to members of parliament, boys and girls, youth and elders we can create a Cambodia where women and girls live free from violence”

With youth groups performing various acts including singing, dancing and a role play on sexual harassment the event was kicked off. Orange t-shirts were given away to everyone attending, setting off the afternoon glow in the capital of Cambodia. The 16 Days selfie booths attracted hundreds of the participants, showing that youth in Cambodia took to spreading the message of ending violence against women through the platforms of social media.

Sdueung Phearoung is a young woman who works with promoting women’s rights through social media and awareness raising at universities. “Cambodian youth plays a particular important role in framing this message” she said.

The new popular dance style Madizon attracted hundreds of people to the event, accompanied by music that spoke about how to say no to violence. “Informal awareness raising is just as important as formal awareness raising. This event helped to promote the message that violence is never acceptable” said Ratanak Ou, member of the UNiTE campaign. Ou furthermore emphasized individual actions. “I want everyone from young to old to be a champion to end violence against women, because it is evident that violence against women can be prevented.” said Ou.

Garment workers affiliated with CARE in Cambodia performed a new karaoke song during the event, sparking public awareness on the importance of a safe workplace. The original video is available on CARE Cambodia’s youtube channel.


Photo Credit: UN Women / Niels Den Hollander


Restaurant managers taking a stand against harassment of their workers

Beer promoters have been visiting restaurants and beer gardens around Phnom Penh to speak to customers about female workers’ right to be treated with respect. Women working in places such as beer gardens have reported feeling a regular and daily risk of being sexually harassed, so members of the Solidarity Association of Beer promoters in Cambodia (SABC) are working to change this.

For the 16 days campaign, banners with the message ‘Sexual harassment stops here!’ have been making the rounds of different outlets. After speaking to SABC representatives about the importance of ending violence against women and what actions they can take, many people chose to step up to the banner and show their support. Customers chose which action they committed to do—listen, support or report—and posed for photos, with many people choosing more than one action. They then shared these to facebook to encourage others to also take action.

IMG_5628“It is good to provide this information because I have often seen violence against women in my community and near my house. If we have information to share it is easier to help to stop this,” said one young man. “Having no violence is good for our families and our country. From now on I will support more and not blame women,” said another.

IMG_5639Restaurant managers are keen to share this information within their businesses. This manager was proud to pose with a sign declaring sexual harassment would not be tolerated in his restaurant and was eager for people to know of him as someone who ensures his employees are treated with respect.

He encourages everyone to listen without judgment when they hear of incidences of harassment or violence. “I must listen to my staff. This is the first and best way to show women respect.”

These messages are also being shared on the Safe Community Forum facebook page. Further updates on the activities of CARE and its partners during the 16 days campaign are available at

Launch of new karaoke song

Sunday 6 December 2015 saw the launch of a new karaoke song about sexual harassment and women’s right to be safe.

The ‘Safe Workplaces, Safe Communities’ karaoke song was written with garment workers in Phnom Penh from a factory which works with CARE Cambodia. The song lyrics include women’s descriptions of what it means to feel safe from violence and how we can all support each other to stop this. This is the theme song for the ‘Sexual harassment stops here!’ campaign.

Garment workers who helped to write the song perform this on stage at the 16 Days dance event.
Garment workers who helped to write the song perform this on stage at the 16 Days dance event.

The song was officially launched at the group dance event held in Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum park to mark the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. Hundreds of young people gathered in orange to show their support for ending violence against women. During the event, the young women who wrote and recorded the song took to the stage to give the first live performance of this.

The song was well received, with many members of the audience dancing along with them. The second time this was played, people were singing along to the catchy chorus, which says:

“Every year, every month, every day, every hour
Women have the right to be safe all the time.”

The full karaoke song is available on CARE Cambodia’s website, CARE Cambodia’s youtube channel and shared on the Safe Community Forum facebook page.

Garment factories say ‘Sexual harassment stops here!’

Workers in garment factories have joined lunchtime events this week to learn more about what sexual harassment is and how they can stand together to prevent this.

Along with information about the campaign, workers were given a choice of three commitment cards to sign: ‘Listen’, ‘Support’ or ‘Report’. The cards encourage people to listen without judgment, show women support and report incidents to the relevant authorities—all actions which help to create an environment where sexual harassment is viewed as unacceptable behaviour.

IMG_5515Many chose to take selfies and photos of their friends wearing the campaign’s orange T-shirt and holding the card showing the actions that most appealed to them. These were then stuck on the wall of the lunch area. Some of those who drove to work added stickers to their motorbikes as well. A number of games and activities helped people to understand that sexual harassment is not just inappropriate touching but can also include verbal harassment.

Factory management said that they wanted to hold events such as this to help women understand that the factory has a clear stance on sexual harassment. “We want women to be brave so that when they have a problem they seek help,” said one member of the HR team. “We want bad behavior to be reported to supervisors so it can be dealt with…when workers understand that this can happen, they will know that if they misbehave there will be consequences.”

Further updates on the activities of CARE and its partners during the 16 days campaign are available at

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