Many people know me as Marima from Love9, a TV programme that tackles sexual and reproductive health. Young and bright, Marima is always curious about literally everything. She does not shy away from asking what she wants to know and speaking up what is on her mind regardless of society’s expectation of her. Actually, the character perfectly describes my personality in real life.
Every single episode of Love9 TV series is both funny and educational. I love all of them but if I had to choose my favorite, it would be episode 4 of season 2.
It is when Marima asks her brother Duong about his relationship with his girlfriend. However, when the sister tells him back her dating plan with her boyfriend, Duong becomes furious and warns Marima not to go, which Marima thinks is not fair. “You can go, so why can’t I?” asks Marima. “Because you are girl!” replies Duong. “But your girlfriend is also a girl!” Marima rebutts.
The scene perfectly captures the gender stereotype situation in sexual relationship in Cambodia. Women usually face stigma when it comes to discussing the topic explicitly.
For most people who have seen me on Love9, they usually ask me “Why do you talk about sexual and reproductive health so openly and confidently? You are still young and most importantly you are a girl! Don’t you feel embarrassed?”
“What to be embarrassed about?” is my reply to them. “Sexual and reproductive health is a part of our life and well-being. It’s normal; it’s nature. At some point in life, you’re going to have to talk about it with your partner to avoid harmful practices, so why not be casual about it?”
Youth and the discussion on sexual and reproductive health
Unintended pregnancy, infection of HIV/AIDS and unsafe abortions – These problems will happen to youth if they are not exposed to sexual and reproductive health knowledge.
If we want youth to avoid those issues, we need to let them know what safe and healthy sexual relationships mean and that can happen only if we let them talk about it openly.
Before I was in the Love9, I noticed that people around me did not even dare to say the word “condom” loudly. Just by the sound of it sounded demeaning to them. But things have started making a huge progress.
After I have appeared on Love9 and spoken up publicly about the sexual and reproductive health, many people around me feel less awkward discussing the topic. Some young people have approached me personally on my Facebook page, asking for advice on subjects like how different contraceptive methods work and what the effects are.
When young people become more confident in discussing their sexual health, it shows that they care about their health and safety. When they receive the correct knowledge, they will know how to protect themselves and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Not just men’s responsibility
Generally, I think sexual and reproductive health is more widely discussed among men compared to women, but it should not be just men’s responsibility. It is both MEN and WOMEN’s.
Due to the constraints of our social norms, women seem to be more reserved when it comes to that topic. We girls do have the power and rights to speak up and be well-informed about decisions that determine our health, well-being and especially our future. In fact, we are the ones who are more vulnerable to the consequences.
After all, who will face unintended/early pregnancy which hampers our development opportunities and not to mention the health-risks from complications before during and after the delivery? Who will face unsafe abortions which can even lead to death? Women.
Everyone has equal rights to receive any kind of knowledge. Young women out there should receive correct information about sexual and reproductive health in order to prevent themselves from getting HIV/AIDs or becoming pregnant at young age. It’s everyone’s responsibility to live a happy and safe life!
My message to Cambodian youth
My message to youth is that if I can talk openly about sexual and reproductive health, so can you! So let’s join hands with me and spread youth’s knowledge of sexual and reproductive health for our healthy and bright future!