Village Animal Health Workers (VAHWs) are community members who are trained to provide basic vet services. They are ideally placed to support livelihood activities in rural areas as they ensure vaccinations and treatments are available locally. But of the 10,000 VAHWs in Cambodia, only 20% are women. CARE aims to help this be more balanced.
VAHWs bring many benefits to a community through the veterinary services they provide. Increasing the number of VAHWs in an area of high demand also ensures community members have the opportunity to choose who they can go to for support with their livestock. This qualification, which is recognised by of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, also has many benefits for the individuals who become VAHWs. They are able to earn income by charging a small service fee for their services so have a flexible way to earn income around their other responsibilities.
However, the benefits to those who graduate as VAHWs goes beyond the income they can earn. With this recognised profession, VAHWs gain additional respect in their community and are valued for their skills. CARE questioned why this was a status predominantly held by men, when women are equally capable of performing these services. This is why the CARE team in Koh Kong organised a training course specifically for women in the area. Many of the women selected had already shown themselves to be leaders in their communities through home livestock raising activities and CARE wanted to ensure they had the opportunity to continue to excel.
Ms. Kim Cheng is one of the graduates of the first all-female course. “At the first I did not believe that others in the community would support me to be a health worker for animals in our village, but this certificate shows what I can do and the villagers have been very supportive.” CARE’s Livelihoods Advisor reiterated this in her speech at the graduation, telling women: “You all have the techniques to be successful in providing animal health services to all people … members of the community believe in your skills.” This confidence is an important impact and shows how the benefits of up-skilling women go beyond simple technical improvements.
This was echoed by Her Excellency Hor Malin, who presided over the graduation. The Secretary of State for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said, “After training you have increased knowledge and technical skills ... Your efforts to become VAHWs mean this knowledge cannot be looked down on by men. For you have become leaders and you should know you have value.”
The graduation of this all-female class is an important step in showing that women are not only just as capable as men in performing these roles, but that there are many benefits to improving the gender balance in areas such as this. Ms. Kim Cheng hopes that by sharing her skills with others she can act as an example of how vital women’s contributions are within the community. “I plan to share livestock raising activities widely and explain to as many people as possible that women are important and necessary for society.”
 According to the Deputy Director of the Department of Animal Health and Production.
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