Breaking a cycle of early motherhood

Sreymom was married young and had children before she was ready. With support from CARE in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, she has learned accurate information about how to plan for a family on her terms. She wants to make sure her daughter does not find herself in the same situation.

At 15, Sreymom’s parents encouraged her to leave school and arranged for her to be married. The facts of life were rarely taught in school so girls like Sreymom often had little idea what the physical side of marriage would entail. “I was so afraid to live with this new guy. I had not known him before but now he was my husband. I was really worried about my first time having sex with him,” Sreymom shyly recalls.

This also means young brides have little understanding of pregnancy or how to prevent this.

After just six months of marriage Sreymom discovered she was pregnant. She was scared about becoming a mother so young and at first she wanted to get abortion. However, her parents and husband wanted a child. Statistics from 2014 showed that over 7 percent of girls aged 15-19 had already had a baby.

"I didn’t know anything about staying healthy during pregnancy; I just followed traditional practices and advice from my mum. I remember that I had serious bleeding few times during my pregnancy and I nearly lost my baby. Luckily, I was referred to the health centre on time, which saved my life and my baby boy’s, but this was the only time I visited the health centre during my pregnancy.”

Sreymom became pregnant again when her baby was six months old. She had no way to prevent this because she faced family pressure not to use any contraception. “I was told by relatives and friends that using pills or the implant would mean I could not have another baby. My husband did not support me using these so I never tried it,” she recounts.

A new perspective: Her entire outlook changed after her family migrated to Phnom Penh for work a few years later. Sreymom found a job in a garment factory where CARE is helping some of the hundreds of thousands of young women employed in the industry to make informed decisions about their bodies and when to have their babies. Joining CARE’s Chat! Contraception training has changed her life—both in terms of her ability to choose when to have more children and also her relationship with her husband.

“The training helped me understand that the previous information I had been given about contraceptives was wrong—I could choose whatever contraceptive method works best for me and still plan to have a baby when I want. I am now using the implant. “

"One topic I liked the most from the training was on communication and consent. Before, I had never discussed sex with my husband as I thought I should not talk or reject his requests, even if I did not want it. But this lesson taught me communication skills so I could negotiate with my husband about sexual activity. As a result, I got his support and he usually respects my decision right away.”

Smarter for the future: Now Sreymom’s husband and family learn valuable messages from Chat! Contraception together as a family. Sreymom installed a game on her phone which asks quiz questions via audio; she plays this on speaker so the whole family can listen.

“This game allows my husband to learn with me on various topics about contraception. It is an effective way to teach a busy guy like him. I think when the men understand these things, it inspires them to support women’s decisions about their bodies. My husband is a good example!"

Having progressed to be a line leader in her factory, Sreymom is also sharing her personal experience and new knowledge with the 20 women in her team. She encourages them to join Chat! Contraception so that, unlike her, they can all make informed decisions about their bodies.

"This absolutely works best and fits the needs of factory workers, both the single ones and the married ones. For my daughter, I want a future where all women dare to speak freely with their partners about sexual health without fear,” she concludes.

Chat! Contraception is one component of the Healthy Women, Healthy Workplace project under the CARE-GSK partnership.

Learn more about the Healthy Women Healthy Workplace project >

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.