The Dignity Project of the Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW) uses art to share experiences of survivors of gender-based violence in Cambodia, to raise public awareness and reduce the stigma attached to reporting violence, and to advocate for better laws related to gender-based violence.
The Dignity Project has an ongoing social media presence on Facebook: Dignity Project – Beyond Domestic Violence
The Dignity Project began in 2015, when NGO-CEDAW and documentary artist Mona Simon created an inspiring project to raise awareness about domestic violence.
The art was exhibited in Phnom Penh and later in Siem Reap. The exhibition portrayed the strength and dignity of survivors, contrasting with society’s usual attitude of blaming women for the violence which they experience. Silk banners depicted encouraging portraits of survivors of violence accompanied by stories of their experiences and a reference to the gaps in the existing laws on domestic violence, which aren’t giving them enough protection.
To highlight the strength of Cambodian women and girls and emphasize the need to hold abusers accountable for the harm that they create, NGO-CEDAW encouraged other survivors of gender-based violence to share their experiences.
NGO-CEDAW issued advocacy statements and shared the art with government officials. Specifically, NGO-CEDAW proposed fundamental changes to the law on domestic violence and the criminal code in Cambodia to stop the current practice by officials of asking women to remain in abusive relationships and refusing to punish abusers until women are severely injured or killed.
In 2016, NGO-CEDAW invited applications from Cambodian artists to continue the project. Over a period of months, the selected artists met with each other and NGO-CEDAW staff to develop their projects and exhibited them together during the annual 16 Days of Activism Campaign against gender violence in late November.
At the event, two films were screened, one an original documentary on transgender women who perform traditional Cambodian dances, and the other a poetic drama on the problems of rape and incest. The event also featured a dance performance showing women’s power to stand up to domestic violence. A sculptor presented her work in rural communities, where she helped schoolchildren learn about gender-based violence and create art that highlighted the experiences of women living in their own village.
Goals and Objectives:
We hope to continue the project with original art each year and by expanding the program to bring the art to local schools and communities throughout rural Cambodia. Through sharing this art with the public and with the government and elected officials, NGO-CEDAW will continue to advocate improving the laws of Cambodia to prevent gender-based violence and provide effective remedies when violence has occurred.