Phnom Penh midwives rally to support women who have experienced violence
Kun Srey Mao is a midwife in Phnom Penh who does more than just deliver babies. As she provides many health services to the women who visit her health centre, Srey Mao is one of the first professionals women encounter if they have have been physically abused by their partners.
One in five women in Cambodia have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lives. 75% of them reported having severe injury among which 90% of them needed medical assistance. However, only half of them received appropriate care at the health facilities. CARE is working with midwives like Srey Mao to ensure that when women come to the health centre, they receive the help they need.
“There is one woman who is a regular patient at our health centre. She used to come often with injuries and bruises on her face, but we never identified her as a survivor of violence,” says Srey Mao. “We were worried that it could be shameful for her if we start asking about her injuries. We were also concerned that asking about the client’s personal issues could compromise our professionalism.”
Srey Mao received training from CARE on how to recognise injuries which could suggest the woman has been subjected to violence by her partner and how to deal with this in a sensitive manner. She found this was very helpful for her day-to-day work: “After the training, I feel confident not only in identifying survivors of violence but also how to take care of them, including providing support and referring to necessary services.”
Afterwards, Srey Mao and her colleagues realised they have encountered many such cases. The training changed how she responded the next time this particular woman came to the health centre. “The lady had a number of injuries to her face, with broken teeth and some bruising. I realised that she had suffered violence so I spoke to her in a private consultation room; as well as treating her injuries I was able to provide her with counselling and I referred her for additional support.”
Srey Mao is now able to help women to escape from violent situations when they want support. She recently treated a woman who had been physically abused by her husband. The lady said she wanted a divorce so he could not do this to her again; Srey Mao was able to inform her of the process, issue a health certificate and refer the woman to her local authorities.
Many other midwives across the capital have similar reports. Their actions are helping women who have experienced violence to recover and to understand how to take action should they choose.
These activities are part of the Safe Homes, Safe Communities project. Safe Homes, Safe Communities is part of the Cambodia Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) Program, a five-year partnership between the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). These activities by CARE as an EVAW partner are made possible with the financial support of the Australian Government.
Safe Homes, Safe Communities works with a number of valued project implementation partners, including: Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, The National League of Communes in Phnom Penh, the Poor Community Development Office of Phnom Penh Municipality and other national and international institutions who are actively working together to end violence against women.