It has been two years since 18-year-old Phanna, of Cambodia, became a peer educator for a Plan International program.
Plan’s youth-led reproductive health program provides a friendly space for young children in the community to socialize with their peers, read books, and take part in crafting activities.
But for some children, it is much more than just a place to meet friends.
It is often the only place where they can talk about sexual and reproductive problems that might be causing them great distress. Topics include how to prevent themselves from contracting HIV/AIDs, physical changes for boys and girls, and how to use condoms.
Peer educators like Phanna, trained by Plan on reproductive health knowledge and facilitation skills, run the sessions.
The task doesn’t come without challenges.
At the beginning of the project, Phanna had difficulty advocating for parents and senior community members to listen to children’s voices. Most people were not comfortable openly talking about reproductive health among family members or in public.
She is beginning to see gradual change, though.
“I’m proud to be a part of a strong community…” she said. “And, at the same time for them to prevent themselves from HIV/AIDs.”
Phanna believes that the younger generation joining the youth group will be inspired to continue this important activity and keep sharing knowledge with others.
“In the future, I want to be a member of the commune council so I can play a stronger role in making a positive change in my community,” she said.