Zita Schellekens is director of corporate affairs at APB Alliance Brewery, under which Heineken beer is brewed and sold in Myanmar. The company ran what it to date the most high profile public awareness campaign on road safety in Myanmar, as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts. Last year it launched animations and celebrity endorsement videos on social media and public television, commissioned a mobile game app, and hosted a policy conference. Zita has previously worked for Heineken in Africa, Europe and elsewhere in Asia, and ran the Dutch-based “Free Burma!” campaign, 2006-8.
Tell us about your campaign.
Our campaign, “Making Myanmar Roads Safer,” not only addresses “drink driving”, an issue closely related to our business, but also focuses on six other road safe behaviours […] based on research data from the Traffic Police: wearing a helmet or seatbelt, no speeding,no phone during driving, minding pedestrians, and no overloading.
What are the biggest challenges towards improving road safety in Myanmar, and what steps need to be taken?
One of the main difficulties is that many people don’t seem to recognize that how they behave makes a difference. There is clear unsafe and safe behaviour and, sadly, when you drive around you see much more unsafe than safe behaviour. Examples are extreme speeding, walking on the middle of the road in the dark, and checking Facebook while driving. Most taxis don’t even offer the possibility of wearing a seatbelt, even though it has recently become law.
We consider the two most important steps towards change to be, firstly, a greater understanding of how to behave on the road, and, secondly, penalizing those who don’t respect the rules. We can play a role in the former, and the government is clearly stepping up its engagement on the latter, by introducing new legislation, on matters like seatbelt use, and fines for those who don’t comply.
What else is being done, across government and in civil society?
We are working closely with the Myanmar government, and its Traffic Police and Road Transport Administration Department—our formal partners in the campaign. We organized a conference late last year, as well as in 2015, to address policy formulation, implementation and enforcement, and public-private partnerships. We see these conferences as a way to bring people who work on road safety together, and to align our strategies so that we can be more effective, as a movement.
Have you seen road safety being taken more seriously in official circles?
It is clear that the current government takes the issue of road safety very seriously. During our policy conferences, we received support from the minister of transport and communication, the parliamentary transport committee, and the ministries of health, information, home affairs, and construction. Three hundred participants from the government, the traffic police, NGOs and the private sector took part.