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Shop for a cause

13 May 2014

Bangkok , Thailand - UNFPA Thailand Country Office has teamed up with Lazada, the fastest growing e-commerce retailer in SE Asia, to raise fund for the good cause, marking a promising attempt to transition into a different role while it is adapting its business plan to the new Strategic Plan.

UNFPA Thailand Office and Lazada Thailand (www.lazada.co.th) jointly raised roughly 90,000 Thai Baht (approximately $3,000) in a single day to mark the 2nd anniversary of Lazada in Thailand.  Under the one-day campaign, Lazada, billed as "Amazon of Southeast Asia", would donate 20 Thai baht (around 70 cents) for each online order placed on 26 March. 

The fund raised would support the UNFPA activities in Thailand, aiming to promote reproductive health. Based on this one-day event, the Country Office is discussing the possibility of additional fundraising days, such as Mother's day, Women's Day et.al.

"It's a start. This is not only about money, and perhaps not even primarily about money. Communications with the general public is key in a middle-income country, as this will eventually be the place where we will find our corporate financial base, and so you want to start creating and cultivating a following among the general population," said Caspar Peek, UNFPA Representative for Thailand.

Having been in Thailand since early 1970s, UNFPA Thailand has fully changed its role from being project manager to becoming an advocate and convener engaged in policy work. On the fundraising side, UNFPA does not only aim at earning extra money but also creating the public ownership to foster ownership and commitment to the UNFPA mandate. 

UNFPA kicked off this effort in 2013. A survey was conducted to identify the most promising fund raising methods and possible partners. Saneekan Rosamontri, Programme Officer for Partnership and Resource Mobilization, said, "The research said that internet is one of the most effective media, so we approached Lazada Thailand which is the fastest-growing and biggest online shopping site. Lazada is also willing to support the good causes and would like to partner with UNFPA."

Joining hands with Lazada means a jumpstart to draw the public attention to UNFPA Thailand.  Lazada has 1.2 million followers on its social network in Thailand alone, millions more in neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. The e-commerce website also tracks basic demographic data on their customers and followers. Caspar added, "We want to use that to know which people clicked, within the Lazada site, on the UNFPA landing page. Knowing this might drive traffic to our site and therefore to our issues and therefore to future fundraising."

Before persuading people to spare the dime, UNFPA had to make them familiar with the organization and its mission. In the past year, UNFPA has aggressively reached out to the public by organizing a series of press events to advocate for better reproductive health, participating in "Young Love" year-long campaign to prevent adolescent pregnancy programme on Channel 3, the most-watched TV network, publishing articles on the mainstream media and monthly columns in a widely-popular teen magazine, giving interviews to main TV networks and radio stations and publishing a State of Thailand's Population Report titled "Motherhood in Childhood" to advocate for policy and attitude change on adolescent sexuality, both in Thai and English.

UNFPA cooperation with Lazada demonstrates a fresh start for UNFPA's changing role to respond to the changing times. Thailand has graduated from a developing country status - as poverty is no longer the biggest issue, the kingdom is facing the challenge of low fertility and fast population ageing, while still facing the challenge of having one out of every six children born to an adolescent mother.

More activities are being studied as UNFPA Thailand is now discussing with other potential partners.  Caspar said, "Our plan for future fundraising in a country like Thailand, where the traditional donors have all left and the corporate sector has not yet set up foundations that allow for large-scale funding, is to go to the general public. Annually, UNICEF and UNHCR raise 13 million and 5 million, respectively, from the general public -  there is no reason why UNFPA cannot do the same."

UNFPA Thailand has meanwhile requested seed funds from headquarters to kick off the full-fledged fund raising campaign very soon. "If this works in Thailand - and there is no reason why it would not work - there is huge potential to expand this to all middle- and high income countries, and that might increase UNFPA core resources by 200-300% within a few years. These are not fantasies or pipe-dreams; this is based on real facts and experience by organizations similar to our own," Caspar concluded.

For more information, please contact

Jeerawat Na Thalang

National Programme Officer for Communications

UNFPA Thailand Country Office

nathalang@unfpa.org