Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cambodia - Power of Young Cambodians

The Youth Champion Awards recognize those who are empowering young people in the Kingdom to become aware of and exercise their reproductive rights, writes Dr. Derveeuw Marc G.L., representative of UNFPA in Cambodia.

For tens of thousands of young people in Cambodia, the onset of adolescence brings not only changes to their bodies but also exposure to new vulnerabilities, particularly in the areas of sexuality, early marriage and unwanted or unplanned childbearing. About 12 percent of teenage girls have begun childbearing or are already mothers before they are 20 years old. An unwanted pregnancy at early age deprives young girls from education, employment and a future in life.

Too many young Cambodian people face barriers to reproductive health information and care. Even those able to find accurate information about their health and rights may be unable to access the services needed to protect their health.

For UNFPA Cambodia, adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health must be supported. This means providing access to comprehensive sexuality education for young people before they become sexually active, information and services to prevent unwanted pregnancies, counseling on family planning and knowledge to prevent sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

UNFPA Cambodia started the Youth Champion Awards to recognize those who through their actions are empowering young people in Cambodia to become aware of and exercise their reproductive rights. The UNFPA Youth Champions have made remarkable efforts over the past years. Through their interventions, decisions and their public discourse on sexual reproductive health and rights, they empowered young Cambodians through increased awareness and understanding. Due to these collective actions, they also promoted gender equality and prevention of violence against young girls.

Since the start, the campaign has been successful and has received 4,500 likes on Facebook. Daily we receive requests and information about the campaign, and through the public event this Saturday we will certainly raise awareness and recognize the previous awardees.

UNFPA presented the first Youth Champion Award to the Minister for Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron in 2015 in recognition of his tremendous support in integrating comprehensive sexuality education in the ongoing school curriculum reform. Through his efforts, young people’s knowledge of reproductive health will now start at the upper primary, lower secondary and upper secondary levels.

Reth Sarita, TV presenter of the extremely popular Love9 program and also a media celebrity received the second Youth Champion Award. Her open public discourse about reproductive health on TV, social media and on her Facebook page, has been inspiring for other young women and men to be brave in talking about sexual and reproductive health openly, even when it came to challenging cultural taboos. She always believes that empowering young people is a collective effort where everybody can contribute.

Srun Srorn is a vocal advocate for the promotion of the sexual reproductive rights for youth independent of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He is the founder of CamASEAN’s “Youth Future” Group and a LGBT rights activist. He strongly believes that every young person has to be included in the development process including the marginalized groups such as LGBT, young entertainment workers and people living with HIV/AIDS. To encourage him to continue to speak out, UNFPA awarded him the third Youth Champion Award.

The most recent Youth Champion is Tong Soprach. He is a public health and gender consultant and a columnist. He has been challenging gender norms and promoting a change in attitudes towards women. As a prominent blogger and an op-ed contributor to the Phnom Penh Post, Soprach raises awareness on gender-based violence and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and youth.

The award giving ceremony and panel discussion on “Empower Youth, Boost their Knowledge of Sexual and Reproductive Health” to be held this Saturday will be another opportunity to draw attention on the power of young people. The two new Youth Champions are Professor Tung Rathavy, director of the National Maternal and Child Health Center and Neang Sovathana, a radio and TV host also known as DJ Nana.

You can find older posts regarding ASEAN politics and economics news at SBC blog, and older posts regarding health and healthcare at IIMS blog. I thank you.

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