SIPP Brings Cambodian Women Smiles and Hope

This week’s SoroptiVoice Blog comes from Sarvina Kang, 24, from Cambodia. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Development Management at Norton University, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She joined the SIPP since June 2010 before the chartered day on July 4th 2010. Here she describes SI Phnom Pehn’s breast cancer awareness programme.

I am a Cambodian correspondent for World Pulse Organization and Safe World for Women. I am so honored and privileged to be selected as a candidate to represent the youth of my country in the conference One Young World taking place in September, 2011 in Zurich, Switzerland. Also, I have been selected as an award-winner for the US Media and Speaking Tour among the many countries who applied for 2010 Voices of Our Future Program – It is a New Media, Citizen Journalism and Empowerment Program.

Soroptimist International Phnom Penh is taking a project of breast cancer awareness. We are working to address awareness issues and help to raise hope in women and girls in Cambodia. It is my desire to see peace in Cambodia and also a world where each person has access to clean water, food, health care and education. Illiteracy is at its peak in Cambodia because it is a developing country. Since I also was born in a poor family, when we had an illness we often had no hope to be treated when I was a child – I always tried to study hard and told myself to be strong and to struggle for a better life. Having struggled in life for being female and poor, I am driven by a passion for women and girls. That is the reason why I joined Soroptimist International Phnom Penh, transforming the lives of women and girls around the world to improve their living conditions.

Breast cancer awareness is very impotant to me as a Soroptimist. Many health facilities around the country were completely destroyed, often deliberately, during Cambodia’s years of conflict. Even today, many parts of Cambodia still have no health facilities, and in other places facilities are too dilapidated to be of any use. Yet despite these handicaps, the government has taken concrete steps to reconstruct and revitalise the public health system.

High costs of health services, low house-hold incomes, limited education, and inadequate access to health facilities and to health personnel are all important factors in explaining the low use of health services by poor Cambodians. The cost of health care – measured by health spending per capita relative to household spending per capita on nonfood items- is much greater for the poor than for the non-poor. One outpatient visit to a community clinic or district health center would use up half of all nonfood spending for someone in the poorest quintile.

Moreover, there is no formal and transparent mechanism for exempting the poor from user fees. For them, health care is simply unaffordable. The poor also have less immediate physical access to health facilities than the non-poor. Moreover, the poor have to travel much longer distances to all types of health facilities than the better-off when no health provider is available in their home village.

Breast cancer is ranked the number 2 health problem in Cambodia according to

Dr. Preap Ley, a Doctor from Sihanouk Hospital, Center of Hope. This is because the women who have breast cancer receive a diagnosis too late to be cured in 80% of cases. Most of them are from part of poor rural areas in Cambodia.

The World Bank states that 35% of Cambodia’s population of around 15 million exists on less than $0.50 USD per day. Moreover, an alarming number of Cambodian women die every year due to a lack of public awareness, limited cancer screening opportunities and the high cost of treatment. Offering the rural poor population of Cambodia free services is critical because the exorbitant cost of cancer care often prevents cancer patients from seeking treatment. To advance this, SIPP have conducted workshops, seminars and trainings to many students at Norton University and villages to women, girls, and also men to raise awareness of breast cancer.

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