By Kate Seewald
Working with the ActionAid Cambodia team and the local organisations that together form the Safe Cities for Women Campaign coalition has been an absolutely amazing, life changing experience.
Our campaign seeks to make Phnom Penh, and all cities in Cambodia and around the world, safer places for women to live, work and play. This means demanding better and more gender-responsive public services, but it also means challenging and changing the embedded norms and attitudes that perpetuate violence against women.
Advising the coalition partners on campaigns and communications, my day to day work involved supporting strategy development, helping the coalition to designing campaign materials and actions, as well as (perhaps most importantly) building the capacity of local staff in areas related to campaigning, communications and mobilisation. For example, I designed and facilitated various interactive trainings and workshops, on topics anywhere from media spokesperson skills, to how to effectively engage and mobilise supporters, to how to best to utilise digital campaigning platforms and tools like social media, infographics, memes, online petitions and so on.
To be able to share what I’m most passionate about - women’s rights, feminism and digital campaigning - with inspiring activists and women most affected by the issues (sex workers, beer promoters, garment workers, LBT youth) was a dream come true. I made lifelong friends and learned at least as much from these inspiring women and men as I was able to share with them.
Some key highlights for myself and for the campaign during my time in Cambodia would have to include the exciting mobilisation events, such as a giant flash-mob festival for International Women’s Day, which brought together over 1,100 young people to dance together to reclaim women’s access to public spaces, using purple glow-sticks to symbolically ‘light up the dark’ once the sun went down and the dancing continued into the night. We also held Cambodia’s first ‘craftivism’ workshop, where activists creatively designed artwork that captured their messages and feelings about women’s safety in cities.
I had very little idea of what to expect from either the Inspirator programme or from a new life in the ‘Kingdom of Wonder.’ But I’m sure that both surpassed anything I could have ever dreamed up. I’ve developed new skills, learned so much (particularly in relation to how NGOs operate and campaign in shrinking political spaces) and made friends and colleagues who now feel more like family. If you have the opportunity to undertake an Inspirator placement, I absolutely advise you to go for it!