Mekong Blue projects
Literacy and Health Education
Improve standards of living and increase opportunities through education programs in health and literacy.
This was the initial program in which the women enrolled when coming to SWDC. Each session ran part time for a year. After successful completion the women were able to move on to the vocational training. All of the training was provided free, and to encourage the women to come, we provided a $10 a month allowance and 10 to 15 kgs of rice, some cooking oil and canned fish for them and their families. Some women were offered a bicycle to make access to the classes easier.
The program is not running at the moment, but SWDC hopes to continue it in the near future.
Following the National Policy to empower women, education is a prime area of need. Of the 37% of Cambodians who are illiterate. Around 49% of the total literate population in Cambodia has not completed primary level education, with only 29% completing primary and lower secondary levels. Students studying at diploma level (which includes pre-secondary technical diploma, secondary/baccalaureate level, and post Secondary technical diploma) constitute 1.62% of the literate population. Undergraduates and Graduates/Degree holders together form only 1.47% of the total population. Source: general Population Census of Cambodia 2008). The most common reasons many people leave school is because of lack of funds, the need to work to feed the family, and a lack of understanding of the benefits of education. Our Literacy Program taught by teachers from the Provincial Office of Education, educates in reading, writing and math up to grade 4 level using the Ministry of Education Curriculum.
This level gives many women the ability to perform more functions outside the home and to participate more fully in the community. Several of the women that have come through this course now work at SWDC keeping records, doing calculations and writing reports on mekong blue production. Many are now reading novels and share gossip magazines at lunch time. Some have taken up further education in English and math and share their knowledge with family members. Breaking this cycle of illiteracy improve lives, opportunities and has a long term beneficial effect.
From our experience with the 'Center of Destination' hospice we found that health education is not a priority in Cambodia and this lack of knowledge can have severe consequences. Some personal health issues, particularly for women, are generally not even discussed because of cultural guidelines. This lack of education creates further vulnerability even with the simplest of health issues. Health knowledge in rural areas can be even more dangerous, as information is transferred from generation to generation, occasionally with a lack of real knowledge. Some of the simplest problems can become worse because of wrong diagnosis, cultural beliefs or mismanagement of medication. As many families in Stung Treng are unable to afford lengthy expensive treatments or even get access to health care workers, some common health concerns can be better prevented or treated with a little knowledge.
Our Health Program taught by the Chief of staff of the Stung Treng Health Center teaches women about primary health. Subjects include nutrition, hygiene, birth control, HIV/AIDS prevention, prevention and treatment of common health problems (diarrhea, malaria, dengue fever etc) and the use of basic medicines.
This education teaches them how to take better care of themselves, their children and share the knowledge with their loved ones resulting in healthier and happier families. These lessons also give the women an opportunity to share experiences and issues, finding they have much in common with their fellow classmates, this creating more ease to communicate health concerns, empowering them to understand their own bodies and take care of their own well being.
Any health issues needing attention for the women or children or family members at SWDC, we are there to assist in practical ways, offering direct assistance or referral, whilst also using the experience to increase further health knowledge and solutions.
Many women participate in only these programs and those who successfully complete both are offered the opportunity to participate in Vocational Training in Traditional Weaving and Sewing.