Your Last Social Media Post?
Ms Ping Chamrouen completed training with Media One and now provides a voice for her community on social and local media. Photo: Sarah Jane/Oxfam
“MEDIA One is creating a forum at both the sub-national and national level for greater citizen participation in dialogue and debate about effective natural resource management,” Media One reported to Oxfam.
Oxfam partners with Media One, an organisation that educates communities about the importance of equal information access, to promote underrepresented voices and increase the broader public understanding of indigenous communities’ culture and the environmental issues affecting their daily lives. Through the PEM project, People Protecting their Eco-systems in the Lower Mekong, Oxfam provided grants to Media One to support community information development. Ms Ping Chamrouen was chosen as one of 18 participants, selected from seven ethnic groups, to complete the Media One training about creating radio content, audio collection techniques, and storytelling. “They were empowered with the tools to share the thoughts and opinions of their community members to the wider public through radio and Facebook,” a statement from Media One to Oxfam reported. Media one trained the participants about the use of social media to “elevate the voices of indigenous communities to a national and international audience” and Ping Chamrouen’s story displays the successful outcome. At Oxfam, we now share her story and hope this will further raise awareness about the need for inclusive media and greater information access for those in communities isolated by geographic and political factors.
Your last social media post?
“Why is media important?
“Why is it important for us to tell you our story?” Ms Ping Chamrouen said.
Ping is from Tumpoun Roung Thum Village, Ratanakiri Province, and has first-hand experience influencing change through media exposure, but the highly flamboyant introduction that’s bestowed on me in this rural village along the Sesan River as an “Australian youth and communication expert” raises Ms Ping’s perception of my authority and sets the line of questioning in motion.
My reply was run-of-the-mill and outright repeated snippets from lectures that had explained the importance of media throughout my undergraduate degree, but the trust I had in these stock answers had influenced my work for years.
Ping was looking for confirmation of the benefit produced by the media work she leads in her community, but I believe her personal interaction with local authorities through new media outlets made Ping better equipped to provide a tangible and meaningful response to these questions than myself.
This blog mentions just a few examples of how Ping and her community have influenced change through social media and highlights some of the real reasons why media is important for community development.
Ms Ping Chamrouen: reporter and community leader
Social media as a platform for raising awareness has rapidly gained momentum amongst indigenous communities in Cambodia, working not only for communities to externally connect with local government authorities and non-governmental organisations but internally increasing youth responsibility and respect for their contribution within their communities.
“It is really important to have community reporters because we can report the real situation in the community.
“We can write short articles and post on social media, Facebook, and let other people outside the community know what is going on,” Ping said.
While indigenous communities’ access to online platforms to raise awareness has increased, private companies continue to have significant influence in rural areas where natural resources have been exploited for monetary gain.
Ping explained the four fundamental issues for her community were mining companies, both legal and illegal, intruding on their land, the hydropower dam developments leaving their community stranded between Yali Falls Dam in Vietnam and the Lower Sesan Two Dam construction in Cambodia, illegal fishing and land rights issues.
With the support of the Tumpoun Roung Thum Village Youth Group, Ping is working out how to use the online space to influence the outcomes of these issues facing their indigenous lands.
When a fisherman from their village suffered extreme injuries falling into an unregistered mine Ping worked with the head of the community youth group, Mr Trang Tham, to gain media exposure about the illegal mines.
“The mining started and within the week we had collected the community opinion and put together one statement to say stop doing the mining here.
“We had a collective voice and we sent the statement to ADHOC, Human rights organisation, who then brought the media and some other organisations to come and see the site and collect the information.
“There was pressure on the government because it was reported in the newspaper and on the TV and so the Ministry and provincial governors came here to see and decided to stop the company,” Ping said.
Since the first case Ping has become the first point of contact for members of the community who come across illegal mines that need exposure.
She said her confidence to directly engage with the company and dedication to exposing the illegal activities are the reason she is the focal point.
“I take pictures of the mining companies and then post them on Facebook.
“These companies are small; they come to invest, work and mine without gaining permission from the government.
“Last month another company came again and I took more pictures and posted on Facebook.
“The district governor contacted me because they saw the photo and they didn’t know about this company, so they finally came and spoke to them,” Ping said.
This level of responsibility within the indigenous community and influence with local authorities through a social media account is not only benefiting the community by protecting the land and environment but pushing the boundaries of the expectations of women’s roles.
If an aim of media is to provide a voice to the marginalised and expose situations that need to change then Ping’s work in the community embodies the answer to her own question of “why is media important?”
Social Media set to increase the strength of youth voice
The influence of the media has been felt throughout the community not just as an exposition of the issues but by fundamentally changing the role of youth in the community.
Ping explains that the younger generation are able to not only speak but write in Cambodia’s national language, Khmer, opening up new opportunities for communication with Media and NGOs and allowing youth to communicate exactly what they want to say without translation misguiding the information.
Social media has created a platform for indigenous youth to connect with an external audience to expose challenges and issues so work can be done towards finding solutions and in turn has increased the value of youth input in the community.
“Before the youth voice wasn’t listened to.
“The elder people did not listen to the younger generation because they said they know more than young people.
“Now people have started to listen and believe,” Ping said.
Trang said strengthening youth confidence to communicate with advocacy groups provides vital communication support for elder members of the community to connect with local authorities, NGOs and gain media notice.
“I want the young generation to know more about the social issues.
“Before only the older people talked to the committee about natural resources but I believe young people have more passion.
“We cannot depend on our parents forever,” he said.
Trang said he is now focused on increasing the knowledge of the youth in the community so they are able to analyse and comment on the information authorities provide to the community regarding dam development and land rights.
“In order to help the community, youth need to have more knowledge about human rights, and about law.
“You need to have a full knowledge yourself in order to help other people,” Trang said.
There is a power associated with access to information and understanding data, and the connections developed with the media, and through social media to other communities, will influence the information accessible in Tumpoun Roung Thum Village and increase youth knowledge.
Ping and Trang can both proudly open their Facebook accounts that communicate illegal fishing activities and community concerns about the dams but their reach can only go so far and they ask me, at the end of my short time in their community, to write about their issues for a broader audience.
“I would like you to write about the youth situation here and our lack of access to the education system.
“Please write about our concerns so other stakeholders like the government, civil society and NGOs can help in providing training,” Ping said.
While my own social media reach would be no more than theirs, Oxfam’s online presence has a much greater influence and I ask, on behalf of Ping and Trang, what was your last social media post and could you use this platform to benefit your community, or theirs?
Written by Sarah Bell, Communications Intern, Oxfam