Skip to Content

news | January 25, 2016 | Cambodia | Development

Behind the scenes: Meet the people who help fight sexual gender-based violence in Cambodia

ACTED’s M&E officer conducts a case study with Bopha, who is both an entertainment worker and a peer educator - ACTED Cambodia, 2016

Sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) from an insider’s perspective: three must reads to understand ACTED’s work within entertainment establishments in Phnom Penh

Each day, ACTED’s field team in Cambodia visits women working in entertainment establishments (karaokes, restaurants) to raise awareness on and find ways to prevent SGBV in their workplace.

ACTED has just published three case studies that shed light on the project from the insiders’ perspectives: peer educators, mekars (owners) and entertainment workers. Bopha, for instance, works both as an entertainment worker in a restaurant in Phnom Penh and as a peer educator for ACTED, giving her unique insight on the concerns raised during the outreach sessions she conducts and enabling her to speak up about SGBV with her colleagues on an informal basis.

“Working as a peer educator for ACTED is a great opportunity: it enables me to gain experience working for an international NGO, improve my and other entertainment workers’ lives, and change society for the better”, says Bopha.

A Mekar’s (manager) perspective

Dern Dorn, 47 years-old, is a manager in an entertainment restaurant in Phnom Penh. He volunteered to coordinate employees participating in the outreach activities organized by ACTED on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). He admits that before taking part in the project, he did not significantly value women. Following his involvement in the project, he started using more appropriate words towards women, and most important, learnt how to value them. He also learned about SGBV, managing skills, how to solve problems between customers and employees. His mindset about SGBV has changed, and he now intervenes as soon as he sees an act of SGBV in his establishment, explaining to the customers that they should not “practice an activity inappropriate to [his] staff”. He also understood the importance of this knowledge: “we should all know our rights and obligations and how to protect ourselves”, he says. He also suggested that NGOs work in the home communities of entertainment workers, where people are not aware of SGBV and the impact it has on people’s lives, and that each establishment should have a sign board providing information to guests.

An entertainment worker’s perspective

Phally is 24 and comes from the poorest province of Cambodia, Prey Veng. She has been living for in Phnom Penh for ten years now, and is working in a karaoke establishment every night. She has participated in ACTED’s educational outreach sessions on sexual and gender-based violence that were organized in her establishment, and started to realise how important the topic is for her and her friends. Learning about her rights, she is now aware that some situations at her work should not happen. After several sessions and learning that she was protected by the law, that she could contact social workers or the police, and ask for help, she now knows how to solve situations such as verbal or physical violence. The ACTED project team has built very good relationships with the entertainment workers which entails strong communication and understanding of the challenges they are facing.

A Peer Educator’s Perspective

Bopha is 22, a waitress in a restaurant in Phnom Penh, and a peer educator in the ACTED project. She learnt about this opportunity through a friend of her, and now conducts outreach sessions with several entertainment workers from at least two establishments. Thanks to this second job, she is able to make extra money to support her family and she is gaining experience. Bopha says she wants to work so that all women working in the entertainment sector have improved working and living conditions, and for them to live and work in dignity by knowing their rights. She was trained on SGBV and communication skills, but also on legal aspects like articles in the constitution or how to make referrals to social services. Bopha feels that she gained a lot of knowledge, as she previously thought that certain types of behavior were only against cultural norms, and not Cambodian law. She is now also able to support her colleagues at the restaurant. She strongly believes that by increasing the involvement of the women and making the outreach sessions fun so the ladies will change their mind and end up asking her to visit more often.

Read the three case studies conducted by ACTED's monitoring and evaluation team about reducing the risk of SGBV against entertainment workers in Phnom Penh:

- Case study n°1: A Mekar’s perspective

- Case study n°2: An Entertainment Worker’s Perspective

- Case study n°3: A Peer Educator’s Perspective