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Dosslarb initiative offers stigma-free sex education for Cambodians

Som Kanika / Khmer Times Share:
Three of the four Dosslarb founders trying to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health with a new information platform. Supplied

Talking about sex and reproductive health can still often be considered either humiliating for Cambodian women or come with stigma. In response, four young women have created the platform Dosslarb– which translates as “growing wing” – a multimedia platform aiming to promote the well-being of young Cambodians by offering stigma free access to sexual, mental and reproductive health related information. Som Kanika talks with Seng Solydeth, the group representative, on their goal to break the taboo on sex education in society.


KT: What is the story behind your focus on sex education and reproduction health?

Seng Solydeth: During the last year of the university, a team member based her thesis on the topic of abortion. We know it is a sensitive issue, but we were shocked by how little information was out there. So we conducted several surveys with young women about general sex education to find out how much, if any, sexual and reproductive health schooling
they had received. The responses showed the majority had not received any significant education from either school or society. In response, we started to collect and share the knowledge that was out there to a wider female audience, which became part of our project. The manifestation of this knowledge is the Dosslarb platform, which provides information through weekly content to encourage young people to educate themselves on sexual and reproductive health and use that knowledge to make informed decisions about their bodies.


KT: What has stopped sexual education being talked about in society?

Seng Solydeth: While conducting surveys, we found young girls became extremely shy once the topic of sex and reproductive health was raised, especially in public. For example, regarding the menstruation cycle, some girls were afraid to ask for sanitary pads in public and instead would use a code word such as “bread” in an attempt to hide it. Also, some young people who were faced with sexual health issues did not know where to go to or who to talk to because they believed it was not appropriate, due to living in a ‘conservative culture’. This also meant they didn’t approach their parents, which could lead to some issues becoming more problematic down the line. Our message is that reproductive health is extremely important, needs to be taken care of on a daily basis and doing so requires people to educate themselves on
the subject.


KT: Since talking about sexuality and reproduction health requires medical understanding, who do you consult for your content?

Seng Solydeth: All content Dosslarb produces is always verified to ensure the information is credible. One of our main consultants is the World Health Organisation. We send them emails regularly for consultation on our content. Regarding our mental health, we work closely with Yim Sotheary, who is a mental health expert. For reproductive health, we work with both the Maries Stopes and Khana organisations, which provide reliable information alongside research from Rhac, the indigenous Cambodian NGO.


KT: What do you consider the biggest achievements made by your team so far and what were the biggest challenges?

Seng Solydeth: Our biggest achievement was receiving 5,000 likes on our Facebook page within the first six months. We are also proud of already partnering up with five organisations who support our project by providing funds and consultation. Challenges wise, as a start-up project we have had to put a lot of work in ourselves and have sometimes lacked human resources. It has also been difficult to get people to engage with such a sensitive topic in Cambodia. We want more people to share personal experiences relating this topic but we have found it difficult to get people to open up – evidencing there is still work to do to break the taboo on the subject.


KT: Why do you think it is important for society to be more open when it comes to sexual and reproductive health?

Seng Solydeth: It is important for society to talk more about women’s sexual, mental and reproductive health because education is key to protecting and informing women about their natural bodies. Women’s reproductive organs need to be taken care of and women need to know how they work. For instance, they shouldn’t be embarrassed talking about their period in public because it is natural. It is also about equality; men are able to go and buy condoms publically yet women feel too shy to buy sanitary pads and this shouldn’t be the case. Sexual health is part of life and learning about your body and sharing how you feel will break the taboos in society and improve women’s sexual health in Cambodia.

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