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‘Asia’s Next Top Model’ Host, Activist Appointed UN Women Ambassador

(Bloomberg) — A Thai-American model and actress has been appointed a UN Women regional goodwill ambassador to stem violence against women two years after she sparked a campaign against sexual harassment called #DontTellMeHowToDress.

Cindy Bishop, a Bangkok-based model, actress and television celebrity who is the host of “Asia’s Next Top Model,” Thursday was appointed a UN Women regional goodwill ambassador for Asia Pacific to promote gender equality and address domestic violence.

“There’s more conversation around sexual harassment, people have been more vocal and more women have taken to social media,” Bishop said in a phone interview. “For actual change in terms of policy, reduction of sexual violence, I feel there is still a lot more to be done.”

Bishop created the hashtag #DontTellMeHowToDress to focus on men’s behavior instead of the way women dress after a Thai government official in 2018 suggested women should dress conservatively to avoid sexual harassment. The movement ended up garnering more support in Thailand than #MeToo.

Since then she has become Thailand’s leading campaigner on ending violence against women and received an “Activist of the Year” award from the office of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, according to the UN’s statement.

Thailand, like many other countries, has seen a rise in domestic violence cases during the coronavirus pandemic amid economic and other stresses, Bishop said. Help lines in Singapore and Cyprus have had a more than 30% increase in call volume, while in Australia 40% of frontline workers surveyed reported increased requests for help with violence, according to a UN Women report.

Though Thailand has been lauded for its success in handling the coronavirus outbreak, it has been faced with the worst economic crisis. The government passed a $60 billion stimulus plan to address the slump, with the finance ministry forecasting a record 8.5% economic contraction this year and millions of jobs at risk.

“Unfortunately, Covid has exacerbated the problems of domestic violence, especially gender-based violence, it’s put us back quite a lot,” Bishop said. “Although Thailand is more fortunate in terms of number of cases, when we were in lockdown, economic problems added stress to already volatile situations.”

“It’s not an easy situation for anyone but women are disproportionate affected by Covid-19 when it comes to having to deal with violence,” she added.

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