Each month, community outreach teams from Community Partners International (CPI) and the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW) travel together for two weeks across Kayin State, southeast Myanmar, promoting sexual and reproductive health, and helping to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. So far this month, these teams have visited nine villages in Kawkareik Township.
These activities form part of a CPI-led project, supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)’s Women and Girls First Initiative, to provide women and girls in 123 conflict-affected, hard-to-reach villages in Hlaingbwe, Kawkareik, Kyainseikgyi and Myawaddy townships with timely access to a comprehensive, right-based package of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and gender-based violence (GBV) services. The project is being implemented in 13 community clinics operated by KDHW, supported by a CPI-run center in Kyainseikgyi town that provides medical care and support for GBV survivors.
This region of Myanmar has only recently, and tentatively, emerged from more than six decades of civil war during which violence against women and girls was widely documented. Cultural norms and stigma often prevent women, girls and community members in general accessing information about sexual and reproductive health and rights, and GBV. This veil of silence makes it more difficult for community members to make healthy choices, and helps to perpetuate violence against women and girls.
During their village visits, the outreach teams organize informal gatherings with community members. The teams consist of a medical doctor, nurse and social worker from CPI’s center in Kyainseikgyi accompanied by KDHW clinic-based health workers. The informal gatherings provide a safe environment to discuss culturally sensitive issues. The outreach teams cover key information about family planning, sexual health and sexually transmitted infections. They introduce and explain the concept of gender-based violence, and provide details about the medical response, legal and protection services available to survivors, and how they can access them.
Through this project, CPI is supporting KDHW’s community-based clinics to provide the first line of health care and support to GBV survivors. For more serious cases, survivors are referred to CPI’s center in Kayainseikgyi town where they can access medical and referral services to aid them in their recovery. The CPI center is staffed by doctors, nurses and social workers with extensive experience in offering health care, support, counseling and referral services to women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence.
In partnership with UNFPA and KDHW, CPI seeks to empower communities to make healthy and informed choices for sexual and reproductive health, provide care, support and protection for GBV survivors, and end violence against women and girls.