What are you doing on St. Valentine’s this year?

Friday 9 February 2018

“Valentine’s day is the time to show love to others,” says Chet Kanhchna, a young singer-songwriter and celebrity idol in Cambodia. “Have you ever thought of showing that love to you, yourself? Love and respect yourself,” she urges. 

Over a four year period between 2010 and 2014, teenage pregnancy increased by 50%.  Early pregnancy in girls can have a lifelong impact on their growth, learning and work opportunities, as well as putting their babies at an increased risk of illness and death.  Save the Children has committed itself to working with government, UN agencies and adolescents and teenagers themselves to come up with solutions to ensure that teenagers make informed choices about safe sexual behavior, especially on Valentine’s Day. 

Save the Children is working with adolescents in Cambodia on health and nutrition. Save the Children believes that a significant change in behavioral patterns can effect change in self-perception. Hence, the project focuses on identifying innovative and effective behavioral change methodologies by using a mix of traditional programming built on existing expertise and government systems along, with a human centered design approach. It also involves creating access to quality nutrition services through existing healthcare systems in order to meet the adolescents’ nutritional needs. In addition, participatory videos, production workshops and public events will be organized to give these adolescents a platform to interact and voice their concerns. 

Engaging youth icons like Kanchchana will help us spread our message more effectively. In the video Kanchchana  encourages young people to contact their nearest health facility in case of any “questions on sexual and reproductive health.”  She instructs further, saying, “your body belongs to you and you are the one who decides whether or not to let anyone get close to you or touch you. A good partner,” she says, “should not force or pressure their partners to do anything they don’t want to do in order to become closer or create a better relationship.” 

Funded by GSK, Save the Children is working with the Ministry of Health’s National Nutrition Programme (NNP) and the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Council for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD). As a member and active participant of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Civil Society Association, Save the Children will be actively involved in provincial and national technical working group meetings for health, and we will also take part in the National Nutrition Day. 

By the end September of 2020, Save the Children aims to have reached at least 8,000 adolescents including 6,000 girls. We will be engaging at least 16 midwives and nurses and sixty adolescent community agents. These agents will deliver ‘adolescent friendly’ nutritional advice and will also tackle pertinent issues such as adolescent pregnancy. Demographics reveal that the adolescent (15 to 19 year old) pregnancy rate increased by 50% over a four year period of time.  More than a quarter of Cambodian teenagers are underweight and half of them are anemic. The programme will address these nutrition issues head-on. A healthy body will nurture a healthy and happy mind. This is essential for overall behavioral development. Since Valentine’s Day, or Sangsar Day as many Cambodians call it, is almost the “official” festival that youth all across the globe identify with, it is perhaps the best day to reach out to them and urge them to take care of their body and mind, exercise the right choices and to fall in love with themselves. As Kanchchana urges, “Don’t forget to love yourself more!”