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Washington Seminar: Women’s Edition 2010

By: Norbert Klein Posted: January-24-2011 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 700

We are sure that the coverage of politics has received more importance in many developing countries than the importance that was given to the issues of reproductive health. As a journalist working here in Cambodia, I have heard less and written little about this issue on different media outlets, or maybe the media outlets have not stressed its importance enough. Therefore, as a result, this issue is almost unheard of, and no policy has been really put in place to tackle the problems in countries like Cambodia.

The Population Reference Bureau, based in Washington DC, organized the one-week seminar to give a voice to female journalists from developing countries who believe articles related to health, population, environment, family planning, such as protection against unwanted pregnancy, and contraceptive technologies, are really worth for media to cover.

Politics, for news editors in Asia and Africa, is a big deal, and according to the female journalist participants in the seminar, articles about mother and child, youth, environment, or even population, are still considered ‘soft news’ and often tossed to an ‘unimportant’ section of newspapers. Thankfully, the program was to ensure that family planning programs supported by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) could be strengthened.

Why is it necessary to let readers know about what is happening in the area of family planning in Asia and Africa alike? The statistics about women’s risk of death from pregnancy and child birth will tell it all. In developed countries, 1 in 7,300 women confronts maternal death, while the ratio is 1 in 75 in developing countries. Even more horrible than it sounds, 1 in 22 women in Sub-Saharan countries have the possibility of maternal death, and Asia, it is 1 in every 120 women.

How is reproductive health reported here in Cambodia? With little or less incentives for media like newspapers, Television and radio to start up reporting on that, Cambodia has the second highest matenal mortality rate in the region, after 660 per 100,000 births in Laos, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

As part of the UN Millennium Development Goals to be achieved in Cambodian by 2015, the goal is to reduce maternal deaths to 540 per 100,000 live births. Beyond this single problem, what Cambodia is confronting is complacency about the decreasing number of the HIV-positive, domestic and gender-based violence, child abuse, and teen pregnancies, while all these challenges are not yet in the radar of the Cambodian government.

It is a win-win situation for the Population Reference Bureau to have decided to work along with journalists in order to make the concerns heard by policy makers of the respective countries. The website of the Population Reference Bureau has a very resourceful archive of various health studies, data, and statistics on the world population. On the global level, why does it take so long for these problems to be resolved in some parts of the world? It goes without saying that it actually depends on the commitment of each government and those who are involved in disseminating information. During the seminar, we agreed on one answer: corruption, poverty, and political stability, as well as the political will are real constraints that kick reproductive health aside. It would not take long but another six months for us to find out how much impact each of the participants will make through their reporting after the one-week seminar. Women’s Edition 2010 will include two more seminars in two Asian countries, and till then, I will keep everyone informed about my articles related to reproductive health.

KEO Kounila

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 700 – Saturday, 22.1.2011
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror carries reports regular and comments from Cambodia - More about The Mirror

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