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Phnom Penh tuk tuk driver a key advocate for addressing gender-based violence

As part of their efforts to eliminate gender-based violence, CARE has recently been promoting a hotline number for reporting abuse by engaging with tuk tuk drivers in Cambodia’s capital city. This pilot project aims to encourage people to have confidence in their ability to speak out about incidences of violence, abuse or trafficking, which often go unreported in Cambodia.

Chen Rany, 44, has worked as a tuk tuk driver since 2011. Along with 60 other drivers in Phnom Penh, he now boasts a sign on the back of his tuk tuk with details of the 1288 hotline number. However, Rany is not just a roaming advertisement for the service, but an ambassador sharing the knowledge he has gained from CARE about women’s rights and eliminating gender-based violence.

“I volunteered to advertise 1288 because I am interested in helping address social issues like violence against women and child abuse,” says Rany. His interest and the information he shares have helped make this campaign to raise awareness of the hotline number much more effective. “Since the board was added to my tuk tuk, I have had many questions from my customers, friends I meet and my neighbours in Takeo province. Every time I explain it to them I feel so proud. I feel like I am being a social worker at the same time as working as a tuk tuk driver. People are always interested in this hotline.”

Unlike the general 119 number used in Cambodia for reporting crime, the free 1288 hotline deals specifically with gender-based violence, including sexual abuse, physical violence and human trafficking. Originally set up by CARE in September 2012 at the request of the Ministry of Interior (MoI), hotline officers have so far received over 800 reports of abuse, with the majority related to domestic violence. Just nine months into the pilot, the MoI had been able to provide legal assistance to a number of these cases in order to support prosecution of the perpetrators. The hotline has received thousands of calls in total, many from people keen to check that the number works so they know they can depend on this in an emergency.

Rany has been impressed by the effectiveness of the number in responding to issues. “I have received positive feedback from many of my customers; they said 1288 is a good mechanism. Once they call, the police hotline transfers the case immediately to the local police or relevant focal person, and then the local police take action and arrive on time. While I heard that, I thought that 1288 is so powerful.”

Rany has also witnessed the hotline in action when he was working at a wedding. “During the party there was violence on the dancefloor, with a woman becoming injured in a fight that broke out.” Having learned of the hotline from Rany’s tuk tuk, the wedding organisers called 1288 and were able to gain support from the local authorities.

“This example makes me believe in what I am doing right now,” says Rany, who is now actively publicising the number in his own time. “I have shared some hotline cards with my village chief, in case they need support for violence against women.” He is also trying to set a good example for others in his community through how he interacts with women. “As a father, I try to work very hard to be a good model for my sons,” he says. “Every woman wants to live in peace. Women deserve to be free from all forms of violence.”

The pilot has so far proved successful, with the many calls it has received demonstrating the demand for this service. CARE is continuing to work with the MoI to support the human resources needed to operate this and continuously improve their ability to respond to issues. However, more work still needs to be done to raise awareness of this across the country and ensure the sustainability of the hotline in the long term.

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