One of the civil society networks working to support and provide some advice for improving the quality of life and contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, as well as to eradicate false beliefs about sexuality for cross-border youth for more than 10 years is the Adolescent Reproductive Health Network. The Network was established to address the teenage pregnancy issues among young migrant workers who could not have access to information from the state due to language barriers. This resulted in the pregnancy rate of young migrants of 30 percent before the implementation of the Network, according to the data of Mae Tao Clinic.
UNFPA Thailand Country Office presses priority on youth leadership in demanding their sexual and reproductive health and rights to be protected and their accessibility to such services with special focus on the problem of teenage pregnancy. In 2014, UNFPA has awarded the grants to 15 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
The purpose of these grants is for capacity development activities that will enable the CSOs to function as the supporter of future youth-led initiatives on the prevention of teenage pregnancy and/or the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people. This initiative will help UNFPA in achieving its Expected Country Programme Output 2 “Enhanced policies and mechanisms to increase the utilization of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services by young people and the most vulnerable populations.”
A Cooperation Interwoven into Success
by Chutidet Cheunjit
Cross-border Adolescent Reproductive Health Network Agent
“Sustainable development is the development of human resources, through the promotion of learning, access to health services and family planning for people of all ages and groups. But for migrant workers and their children, they don’t seem to have many choices.”
There are millions of migrant workers in Thailand. This group of people is an important mechanism that propels Thailand’s economy to move forward. At the same time, these very same people also have a duty to raise a family and build a future for their children in as much as their power and opportunity could support so that the children will grow up to lighten their burdens. Nevertheless, with some certain restrictions, only a few of these workers and their children can access to opportunities to improve themselves through education. Although Thailand has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child — which stipulates that every child in the country shall receive a basic education, regardless of gender, race, religion or any other restrictions — in reality, the access to self-development of migrant workers’ children has continuously been experiencing tough challenges. Not only that, their access to medical services and consultation on family planning to provide a quality child care is another challenge that only the minority of them can receive these services from public sectors.
The one alternative choice for these underprivileged people is to get some help from civil society organizations that provide services to public. This could be a phenomenal change in their lives.
“At first I thought outside ejaculate couldn’t get girls pregnant,” revealed Zaw Lin Oo, a 17-year-old Burmese father, holding his two month old, with his 16-year-old girlfriend beside. The couple had to drop out of school and find works to support their family. “If we could do pre & post ovulation count, we wouldn’t have to worry when we have sex,” was a response from the teens in the community that the Network received before the training activities.
One of the civil society networks working to support and provide some advice for improving the quality of life and contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, as well as to eradicate false beliefs about sexuality for cross-border youth for more than 10 years is the Adolescent Reproductive Health Network. The Network was established to address the teenage pregnancy issues among young migrant workers who could not have access to information from the state due to language barriers. This resulted in the pregnancy rate of young migrants of 30 percent before the implementation of the Network, according to the data of Mae Tao Clinic. If no collaborative effort is made to address this problem, the situation could worsen and widely affect the society in general. Because of these, eight Myanmar ethnic organizations have to be involved in resolving these problems to reduce the social issues and alleviate the work of state agencies in five bordering districts in Tak Province, where tens of thousands of young people of different languages and cultures are residing.
The Cross-border Adolescent Reproductive Health Network is a distinctive group that has been empowered with knowledge about youth reproductive health and skills to deliver the content using specifically appropriate methods for the target group, in implementing the reproductive health program for migrant youth. In addition, the Network has the potential to reach out to ethnic communities with understanding in cultures, concepts and attitudes about sexuality.
Each community reach out agent is the staff from the network organizations. They are in charge of the ethnic groups and communities having the same ethnics and languages as their own so that communication and talks about sexual topics, which are delicate, can be accomplished as well as reduce potential problems. By working with migrant young people, aged 12-25 years, using group discussion method and providing recreation areas, these young people spend their free time usefully. In addition to the learning environment provided in the service facilities they normally visit, some other activities include arranging events for them to showcase their talents in sports, singing and dancing, drawing and reading. The will receive compliment and encouragement as well as guidance on their weak and strong points to further develop their skills. Also, consultation on reproductive health on a case by case basis is provided. Contraceptive methods are also offered along with accurate information on how to use them properly. If it is necessary, or in the event of mistakes, the Network, by the trained staff, will provide emergency contraceptives to those who need them.
This is another unique strength of the Network that not only enhances necessary life skills but also prevents unwanted pregnancies among migrant youth. Each year, the Network can foster immunity and knowledge that is not taught in schools in over two thousand migrant youth. These young people will then spread the acquired knowledge about sexuality further to their friends. As a result, the rate of unwanted pregnancies among these young people decreased by more than half, falling to only 15 percent or 1-2 cases per day, from the birth rates of all ages at Mae Tao Clinic of 12 cases per day on average.
Another change which is regarded as a breakthrough is the shift in mindset of the older generations, who still have not fully understood about contraception, such as wearing two condoms is safer than single-layer condoms, ejaculation outside vagina does not contribute to pregnancy, using pre & post ovulation calculation is a safe method to prevent pregnancy, as well as restrictions of traditional norms of each ethnic group that regard talking about sex with children as pointing out the way for the villain. The adults started to show some changes as some parents of these migrant youth receive the information that the Network disseminates using the flyers taken homes by the children. Parents would ask their children about what they learned from the Network. This is the beginning of the talks and exchange of views on sexual topics between people of different ages.
Eventually, cross-generation understanding arisen from the talks and realization of sexuality and unprepared pregnancy in adolescents could improve and progress positively, building mutual understanding and causing crystallization into a better child care of their own in the future. Reducing unprepared pregnancy not only affects the better quality of life of the migrant worker families but also impacts the quality of life of people in the surrounding society. The increased capacity of these people would affect the betterment of society, well-being, economic condition along the border and relationships of Thailand and Myanmar in the future.
Mae Tao Clinic is a health facility that provides services to disadvantaged and displaced migrant workers along Thailand- Myanmar borders, located in Mae Sot District, Tak Province, founded in 1989 by Dr. Cynthia Maung, a Burmese refugee escaping the unrests in her home country who has won several international honors and awards. Currently, the clinic provides services to an average of 400 patients daily.