In late 2014 CARE Cambodia hosted an influential delegation from the USA and Australia, including three US Congress Representatives and two Australian Members of Parliament. This Learning Tour allowed them to see firsthand the impact of U.S. and Australian investments in improving maternal, newborn and child health. It demonstrated the achievements of healthy mothers, who, empowered with improved skills, education and financial literacy, are able to live longer and more productive lives and better support their children.
The delegation visited a garment factory in which CARE works to learn more about the health challenges faced by urban women. CARE has been working with garment factory workers in Cambodia since the late 1990s, helping women improve their knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, including HIV/AIDS prevention, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, and life-skills training.
Navi, one of the garment factory workers who has been attending these training sessions at lunchtime, explained to the delegation, ‘Before I didn’t have a complete understanding and my daughter got sick a lot. Now, she is heathy and not sick like before, because I know [more about] proper hygiene and sanitation.’
‘I think when you visit Cambodia and begin to learn what CARE does, you begin to understand that U.S. foreign assistance is absolutely critical,’ delegation member Representative Quigley said. ‘Without this kind of assistance, these women would suffer horrible problems – with unwanted childbirths, with lack of education, with extended illnesses in their families and with the inability to cope with the challenges they face.’
The Learning Tour also travelled to a rural province to see CARE’s Village Savings and Loans Associations in action.
CARE’s savings groups have helped women build their own successful small businesses and invest the profits in their health needs, such as doctors’ visits and medicine. These member-managed groups of about 20 to 30 people offer basic financial services to those who are excluded from the formal financial services system. Every group receives one year of intensive financial literacy training to make sure they understand how savings, interest, profit and loss, and bookkeeping work. They also learn about the selection and management of income-generating activities.
The delegation heard from several VSLA participants, including the president of the savings group, Uy Phon. She explained that she was able to use loans from the group to invest in her small pig farm business and then use her profits from this to pay for the costs of delivering her second child at the hospital.
‘As a mother, I have to think about my future for my children,’ Phon said. ‘I have to save money for them so they can go to school, because I could not finish.’
‘Program results in Cambodia reflect those found by CARE throughout the world – investment in the empowerment of women and girls is one of the most effective methods of overcoming poverty,’ said Stav Zotalis, CARE Cambodia’s Country Director. ‘CARE’s collective work over the last 65 years has taught us when you empower women and girls, whole communities benefit.’
Read the full report of the tour:
Healthy Mums, Healthy Societies: Global Investments to End Maternal and Child Mortality in Cambodia
The Learning Tour was made possible with the financial support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.