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iSHE: Propelling SRHR dialogues

Written by Mr. Tola Heng, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, Cambodian Women for Peace and Development.

Female entertainment workers (FEWs) in Cambodia are at high risk when it comes to sexual and reproductive health. Alhough there has been a huge decline in HIV infection rates among entertainment workers overall, some groups remain especially vulnerable. A study by the Integrated Biological and Behaviour Survey in 2016 showed HIV prevalence among Cambodian FEWs who have more than 2 sexual partners a week is 8.3%. In particular Cambodian women and girls working in streets and parks for sex-work are especially vulnerable to HIV. Access to contraceptive health, safe abortion services and advice are also inconsistent. In January, the Cambodian Women for Peace and Development (CWPD) NGO took another step forward in using cutting edge digital technology to improve knowledge, attitudes and practices amongst vulnerable women who are especially at risk from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The topic of sexual reproductive health is often considered a taboo in Cambodian culture, CWPD is arming women with knowledge and vital information about sexual reproductive health and rights, and shows the location of health facilities when needed. CWPD has partnered with the MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child, New Delhi (India), to use its innovative iSHE application to achieve better outcomes for women in Cambodia. iSHE is an evidence based and peer driven application solution designed to create a sustainable impact in communities. CWPD envisions this as an opportunity to use innovative approaches and mobile based interventions to motivate and engage with the vulnerable FEW communities.

Over two and a half days, 50 outreach workers and 10 field staff from CWPD were trained on how to use the app, how to measure its impact, and its usefulness for female entertainment workers. These members are now at the fore front of disseminating the App and training the women on how to enjoy the features and benefits of the software, which includes crucial information on sexual reproductive health and medical help. They will also be able to monitor the success of the app in improving education and health for the women who are involved in the programme by conducting a baseline survey into the knowledge, behaviour and health of women before and after using the app.

The training workshop for the outreach workers and 10 field staff from CWPD was extremely useful in discovering and fixing some technical problems identified, and equipping CWPD staff with the skills to ensure the app is fully understood by participants in the program. 6,000 female entertainment workers will be reached with the iSHE application over a period of three months. The programme works with women between the ages of 18 and 35, who have more than two sexual partners a week and own an android smartphone. CWPD believes the adoption of international collaboration and digital technology can have a powerful impact on the present and future lives of these women and their families.

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