Learn how language can be the key to healthy pregnancies

First pregnancies can be daunting for women wherever they live and new parents are often keen to learn as much information as possible about how to keep their unborn child safe. But for ethnic minority communities in north-eastern Cambodia, accessing information can be challenging. Not only are they located in a very remote part of the country, but any information that is available might not be in their own language.

Tvith, 20, from Ratanak Kiri province is currently seven months pregnant with her first child. She speaks Tampuen, a minority language in Cambodia, whereas most health information is provided in the national language of Khmer. Tvith says that before CARE started working with pregnant women in her community, she didn’t have many opportunities to learn about health for her baby.

Under Partnering to Save Lives, CARE worked with the Provincial Health Department and MEDIA One to develop a radio drama which would appeal to young mothers such as Tvith. In monthly pregnancy clubs, pregnant women gather together to listen to this and discuss what they learned.

For Tvith, the most exciting part of this is that the radio show is in her mother tongue. “I’ve never listened to a radio program in the Tampuen language before. I am happy to hear the program in my own language because it’s easier for me to listen and understand.”

The radio drama tells the story of a young couple as they have their first child. Throughout the story they learn about pregnancy and make decisions based on the good advice they are given.

“Before joining the club and listening to the radio program, I had never visited the health centre for pre-natal care,” says Tvith. “I did not realise it was so important. Since listening to the radio program, I have been to the health centre two times and the midwife gave me iron supplements.”

“The radio program is very good because it teaches expectant mothers how to take care of their health and the health of their unborn babies … I’ve learned that pregnant women should eat nutritious foods and should not smoke during pregnancy. In addition, pregnant women also need to make sure not to take medicine without a prescription from the doctor and avoid heavy lifting. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I would carry large baskets of potatoes and buckets of water on my shoulders. However, I do not do this anymore because I know the risks.”

Not only is the drama broadcast in Tvith’s own language, but the couple from the drama are from a similar community with cultural beliefs that Tvith will recognise. By featuring one character who offers advice which is not medically accurate, the show helps to overcome common myths about pregnancy and childbirth.

“Before listening to the radio program, I was planning to give birth at home with a traditional midwife,” admits Tvith. “However, after listening to the radio program, I have decided to deliver my baby at the health centre because I realise it is safer. At the health centre, they are better equipped with the necessary tools and resources for a safe delivery. If we deliver at home with a traditional midwife, it could be dangerous for me and my baby.”

Telling these stories by radio makes it easy for women even in the most remote areas to easily access health information. Sharing this in a familiar language and context helps ensure that these messages are understood and women take the information seriously.

These activities are part of Partnering to Save Lives, which is funded by the Australian Government. The radio show and discussion group were developed by MEDIA One in collaboration with CARE.

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See the Socially Marginalised Women program in action
See the  Ethnic Minority Women program in action

© CARE Cambodia 2018

CARE is an international development organisation fighting global poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring sustainable changes to their communities. 

Defending dignity. Fighting Poverty.