Smart Lady, stupid campaign

The reality TV program "Smart Lady" promoted by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is just plain stupid.

  • Published: 19/09/2013 at 09:34 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

It might be a smart public relations effort for the prime minister, since the target audience is superficial and materialistic. The type who believe that putting a bunch of women in a reality program and having them train in how to be a "smart lady" would actually lead to the advancement of Thai women as a whole. 

It might be smart for the producers of the programme, with the blessing of the prime minister and likely a generous budget. The show could very well receive high ratings and earn a lot of advertising revenue. 

PM Yingluck launches the "Smart Lady Thailand" TV reality show, funded by the government, in Nonthaburi on Sept 5. If the aim is to help women, there are many organisations already helping women that are more worthy of the taxpayers' money, says Voranai. (Photo by Aphichit Jinakul)

It might even be smart for the female contestants. These days there’s no shortage of men or women willing to embarrass, degrade and make fools of their humanity just so they can be on TV – and after their 15 minutes of fame disappear into irrelevance for the most part. 

No doubt there will be a red carpet launch, much media coverage, stars, celebrities and high-society appearances – flashing lights and all the usual – money wasted and money gained – and then everyone moves on to other things.

No doubt worshippers of the Yingluck cult of personality would vehemently argue that handouts and subsidies, forging international relationships and promoting a reality TV show equates to a great job done by the prime minister – and that any naysayers just hate democracy.  

But everyone else simply shouldn’t have such low and shallow expectations. If the purpose is betterment of Thai women, then having this sort of reality TV show as the vehicle is just plain stupid.  

Want to launch a Smart Lady campaign? Want to advance Thai women? Dear prime minister, jump off the public relations wagon and actually help Thai women. Take a look at these examples. 

To help sex workers enjoy a better life, EMPOWER (Education Means Protection of Women Engaged in Recreation), or the Centre for Sex Workers’ Protection, offers free classes in language, health, law and pre-college education, as well as individual counseling. It has offices in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. 

The Christian charity organisation the SHE Foundation (Self Help & Empowerment) is based in Phuket. The organisation works with women and children trapped in prostitution, offering a prevention program and vocational training, and helping them to find paid employment.

Another Christian human rights group, International Justice Mission, focuses on rescuing brothel workers held in sexual slavery, while Destiny Rescue exists both to prevent girls having to work as prostitutes and helps those who already are out of prostitution.

Empower is one of many worthy organisations already working to improve the lives of downtrodden women in Thailand, says Voranai. (Photo from Empower Foundation website)

These are just four of a list of organisations actually working on real issues, helping real women and children in need. Certainly they could all use more government cooperation. Surely they could all be helped with more resources and funding. 

Definitely if the prime minister – the first female leader in the history of this traditionally misogynistic, chauvinistic and patriarchic country – puts her face, title and name out there. 

Partnering up and voicing out, taking the lead and reins to fight against the mistreatment of and the lack of opportunities for women and children. Those suffering from degradation and downright slavery, whether forced into the sex trade or those who have no choice but to sell their bodies as a means to feed their family. 

If the prime minister would take up this crusade, if this were to be the Smart Lady campaign, then this country, its women and children, would be the better for it. We would all be thankful. 

But no, instead the Smart Lady campaign is a reality TV show. 

Again, as has been the theme over the past week – dear prime minister, the blind, deaf and dumb cult worshippers may follow you unquestioningly, believing that anyone critical of your government is a Democrat in disguise. 

But you’re not just their prime minister, you’re every Thai’s prime minister – and there are those Thais who simply want better things for this country. 

We expect better from you, we demand more from you, we need the best from you. Millions of disaffected women and children out there could actually use your help. 

About the author

Writer: Voranai Vanijaka
Position: Political and Social Commentator

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