Cannes Lions

Be An Honourable Warrior

THIS LIFE, Siem Reap / THIS LIFE / 2020

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This Life is an innovative, community-driven NGO fighting for social justice & delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Cambodia. We're known for award-winning, community-driven grassroots programs & creative campaigns that have a national impact, driven by deep understanding of the local culture.

In its 2019 report on SDG5, Gender Equality, the UN writes: "18 per cent of ever-partnered women & girls aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical and/or sexual partner violence in the previous 12 months."

In Cambodia specifically, a shocking 36% of men **admit** to using violence against a woman.

A forward-thinking funder awarded us $4,500 with a clear brief to run a campaign tying in with UN Women's international "16-Days-Of-Activism-Against-Gender-Based-Violence" to create lasting change.

Our objective was to create a campaign creative & culturally resonant enough to grab men's attention, challenge them & change their minds, creating a movement determined to end violence in Cambodia.


Our idea tapped into archetypally masculine pursuits & values - then subverted them.

We reclaimed the proverb "Cambodians carry the blood of ancient warriors" by emphasising honour & arguing the Khmer Empire was built by "Honourable Warriors" protecting the vulnerable, not hurting them. This lost tradition needed restoring, hence our slogan #BeAnHonourableWarrior.

We wanted men to publicly commit to ending violence through our online Honourable Warrior pledge, promoted by footballers, rappers, actors & other male-influential celebrities.

Beloved boxer Chan Rothana was our leading Honourable Warrior.

Our short film lured men in with the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere of a Rothana fight until a shocking twist - his opponent is a trembling woman. The audience is horrified by the unfair fight until Rothana pulls off his gloves & helps her, earning the"Honourable Warrior" champion's belt.

The message - if beating women is unacceptable in public, let's make it unacceptable in private.



With just $4,500 how could we create national change?

Our insight was social media's unique status in Cambodia provided a cost-effective way to mobilise a population eager for change. Research showed social media is growing by 20% annually, and 79% of Facebook users say it helps them connect to good causes, compared to 53% globally.

Focus groups confirmed that to grab male attention & communicate a confrontational message, we must appeal to national pride & traditional values, hence our use of the wildly popular Khmer Empire & Kun Khmer boxing.

We selected celebrities who were popular with different groups of Cambodian men, with a particular emphasis on those aged 18-35, statistically the most violent. Despite often "macho" public images, our famous Honourable Warriors spoke movingly about why domestic violence is wrong, shameful & certainly not manly.

Through traditional and social media we created a national debate & movement for change.


We launched our short film with a social media blitz on 25th November, driving people to our website & social media then maintaining momentum & visibility throughout the UN-supported 16-Days-of-Activism-Against-Gender-Based-Violence.

The campaign was driven by collaborations with famous Cambodians including boxers (Chan Rothana), footballers (Thierry Bin), rappers (Reezy, Vitou) & actors (Tharoth Sam). They posed with our belt & shared powerful testimonies on their social media & ours, influencing hundreds of thousands of men.

We brought our "Honourable Warrior" code to life with varied interactive content where Cambodians pledged to follow three rules:

1) never use violence against the vulnerable

2) always show respect

3) bring up children likewise.

A private Facebook Group was formed by the most active & committed to work together to end violence.

We rolled out more than 40 posts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube & our website, including Facebook frames, case studies, features & factsheets.