One in five Cambodians are aged from 16 to 24 years old, yet this age group faces a number of barriers when it comes to accessing information on reproductive health.
“Young people in Cambodia lack the knowledge needed to make responsible decisions about their lives. Without awareness of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, young people cannot fulfil their full potential,” said Dr. Marc G. L. Derveeuw, UNFPA’s country representative in Cambodia.
The Power of Young People – Youth Champion Awards, and an accompanying panel discussion, “Empower Youth, Boost Their Knowledge of Sexual and Reproductive Health: Why & How?,” were held recently with the aim of empowering youth by boosting their knowledge of reproductive health in order to deal with life problems and reach their full potential.
Kim Sanh, an adviser at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, said that reproductive health courses would be added to the national school curriculum from primary school through high school in 2018.
Reth Sarita, a Love9 TV presenter, said young people learn a lot about reproductive health from the show. With knowledge of reproductive health, they can prepare themselves if an “accident” arises, she said.
“I was raised by my father, who was relatively open-minded [compared to other parents],” Ms. Sarita said, explaining that this tolerance allowed her to learn a lot about society.
Tong Soprach, a public health consultant and columnist, said that his research and articles offered a new perspective on the views of people and society.
“Not all youth think of making love on Valentine’s Day; my research shows that it is just a small group of young people [who think that way],” he added.
Srun Srorn, an LGBTI activist and founder of CamASEAN Youth’s Future, said, “People have rights from the time they are born; the problem is, these rights are abused by other people. With the right knowledge and information of how to use their rights, they can protect and use their rights efficiently.”
“There has been a lot of discussion on talk shows and on social media. It is a good sign that people know about it and can protect themselves,” said Prof. Tung Rathavy, director of the National Maternal and Child Health Center.
Neang Sovathana (aka DJ Nana), a radio and TV host, said 90% of the people who call into her show discuss topics related to love and relationships, adding that many lacked the knowledge needed to make the right decisions. Ms. Sovathana sees it as her job to distribute information and help people who have problems.
Ouk Dareth, a participant from RHAC, said that transgender people don’t know how to use their rights effectively because of gender discrimination. When they are sick, they don’t dare go to the hospital, especially if they are poor; they just stay at home and try to wait it out. People should change the way they think and try to weigh what is right and wrong, the RHAC representative said.