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Migrants and Music

Violence against women in the workplace is widespread in Asia and the Pacific and disproportionately affects cross-border female migrant workers, who, due to their unique circumstances, are not only vulnerable to violence but also have higher risks of becoming victims of human trafficking.

According to UN Women, 30% to 40% of women in countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines, suffer sexual harassment at work, while a study on violence against female migrant workers from Myanmar to Thailand observed that 8 out of 10 interviewed reported having experienced violence.

In support of an ASEAN-wide campaign to end gender-based workplace exploitation, SideKick was tasked with developing an innovative campaign strategy for piloting activities aimed at female migrant workers in the context of Thailand, one of the three major migrant hubs in Southeast Asia.


Using a user-centered approach allowed us to build empathy and develop a deeper understanding of our target audience.

Widely used in business, the methodology when applied to social good puts “users” at the heart of the process and then designs from their perspective. 


SideKick conducted a study to understand in detail the media consumption patterns of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos living in Thailand and how to best influence change. 


Through home visits and in-depth interviews with the migrants, we discovered that music, especially via digital consumption, has the most profound effect on their daily life. Most migrant workers spend the majority of their leisure time, 2 hours/working day, listening to music with one genre being the most popular: Electronic Dance Music (EDM) combined with ASEAN percussion/ASEAN Percussive EDM.

Influenced by ‘Bounce’, ‘Dance’ and ‘Electronic’ music from the west merged with local country music and percussion from the Mekong sub-region, this new style of music has been dominating regional music consumption with YouTube DJ uploads reaching millions of views.

As migrant workers are increasingly reliant on digital mediums as their primary source of information, in-person channels and traditional content such as PSAs, pamphlets and training materials produced by government agencies and NGOs, have, in turn, become less effective at reaching migrant communities. The findings also showed that many female migrant workers chose to endure violence in silence or were unaware of available help. With more pressing concerns like day-to-day survival it was unlikely that female workers were to come forward and report violations.


Reaching migrants through the right media and platform.

A local DJ who understood the unique sound of local EDM was enlisted to help develop and produce a song that would appeal to migrant communities. The demo, sung by a migrant worker, encourages migrant women to understand their rights and take action with a simple message – “Don’t stand for it…It’s never your fault".


After watching the music video, people in the communities started handing out pens and paper to write down the 1300 hotline number for social assistance mentioned in the song. The melody and lyrics immediately resonated with migrant workers. Listening sessions were held in migrant communities and schools and afterwards the first prototype was tested at a Sunday temple fair in Samut Sakhon province.​

What we found was that there was a widespread genuine thirst for information, especially for content in their native language.

Launch of migrants and music

Ending gender-based workplace exploitation through knowledge and music.

A digital demo premiered at the first launch of the ASEAN Campaign on 25 November 2019, in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok.

A press conference was held at the launch, kicking off the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign that starts on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW), and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.

First listen by members of a national task force on campaign development on EVAW and anti-TIP and representatives from embassies, international organizations, CSOs, businesses and universities.

Sharing a panel with Facebook, UN agencies, private and public sectors as well as civil society to discuss digital media as a force for good and to officially launch an EDM mix produced by SideKick for ASEAN as part of International Migrants Day.

Online release of "It's Never Your Fault"


To mark International Migrants Day, the mix was made available for download in Thai, Khmer, Burmese and Lao in December 2019. More ASEAN languages will follow in the coming year.

“It’s Not Your Fault” is part of a longer-term vision for a sustainable grassroots campaigning approach to behavior change communications that will be rolled out throughout 2020 in various ASEAN countries and territories.

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