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Volunteering to deliver reproductive health information in Cambodia
05 March 2004

Phnom Penh: Mrs. Som Set has been helping women deliver their babies at home as a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) for more than 20 years. But now she has an additional role in her community in Siem Reap province. As a reproductive health volunteer outreach worker, she provides women with information that can help them exercise their reproductive rights and choices.

Mrs. Set, who is 46 years old, is married with eight surviving children – four daughters and four sons, aged between 5 and 22. She says that ideally she would have liked only four children, but in the past she and her husband did not know about contraception.

Like many rural women, Mrs. Set dropped out of school quite early. Her father did not want her to study beyond grade four because he was afraid that she would be able to write letters to boyfriends. She first began working as a TBA during the Pol Pot regime and has recently added some training from the provincial Department of Health to her two decades of practical experience. She usually delivers about five babies a month, earning from 1,000 to 5,000 riels per delivery.

In 1997, Mrs. Set was chosen as a volunteer for the Ministry of Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs reproductive health outreach project. She has been to technical training with the project twice and now counsels women on birth spacing methods and other reproductive health concerns. In her experience, it is effective to integrate this work with her TBA duties. She finds that women who are pregnant or have just delivered are open to discussing reproductive health, and especially birth spacing.

Mrs. Set’s enthusiasm for helping women take control of their fertility extends to her own family. She says she is making sure her daughters know the benefits of birth spacing and have a detailed knowledge of the different methods that are available.

From: UN Cambodia