Help Burmese migrant women access reproductive services

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Burmese migrant women helping one another “Mema Sagawai”

posted Nov 25, 2013 by Rati Bishnoi

Progress

PATH originally planned to directly implement this project. However, PATH’s Thailand office has transitioned into an independent Thai nonprofit called Path2Health Foundation (P2H). PATH issued a subgrant to P2H to implement this project. P2H recruited 8 Burmese women volunteers from 4 communities to serve as group facilitators. These facilitators will help organize women’s discussion groups and conduct follow-on dialogues with women who attend the groups. In consultation with the volunteers, P2H has developed discussion topics and content based on issues of concern for Burmese migrant women in these communities, starting with sexual and reproductive health. P2H will teach these 8 women about health and social services for migrants in Thailand and will introduce them to the health service providers in their communities. The volunteers will then assist migrant women who seek help by providing advice, recommending services, making initial contacts, or accompanying women to services.

Risks and challenges

This project is envisioned to complement a larger health system strengthening project that is not yet funded, so one challenge P2H is anticipating is that once Burmese migrant women are ready to seek health services they may encounter barriers to accessing services from a health system that is not yet migrant friendly. P2H is incorporating this potential challenge into the topics covered in the discussion groups so women can problem-solve together. Additionally, Thailand is implementing a new health insurance policy for migrants. However, the coverage under this policy is still confusing and many migrants are reluctant to buy into the insurance. This could further complicate access to health service for labor migrants in Thailand.

Next steps

The 8 facilitators will be paired up in 4 teams. Each team will carry out 12-15 group discussions with Burmese migrant women in their community, reaching approximately 500-600 women during a six month period. The discussions will cover a wide range of health topics, but will start with sexual and reproductive health issues. For example, P2H anticipates there will be women who seek information and services for family planning, antenatal care, and safe delivery.

Budget

This project is on track. The funds have been used to pay for the training of the 8 volunteers, and will be used to pay for community activities including the women’s group discussions in the 4 communities.

  • Education & training
  • Family Planning
  • Health
  • Reproductive rights

For girls and young women everywhere the traditional way to learn about their maturing bodies is through “girl talk.”

Why we care: Young Burmese women working as migrant workers—especially as undocumented workers—in Thailand are often highly vulnerable to physical and sexual violence and poor reproductive health.

How we’re solving this: PATH are training migrant workers from different ethnic groups from Myanmar to lead Mema Sagawai—or “girl talk”—groups so young migrant girls and women have a place to learn about their maturing bodies and talk about special reproductive health needs.

PATH needs funding to train volunteers to lead Mema Sagawai meetings so young Burmese migrant women and girls can have a safe space to ask questions and to share information about even very personal concerns and feelings, specifically as they relate to being a woman.

While the focus of the Mema Sagawai groups is on increasing utilization of essential reproductive health services, an important secondary benefit is the increased confidence that it gives these women to function in a culture and language that is not their own. In addition to evaluating Mema Sagawai’s impact on the use of reproductive health services by young migrant women, PATH will also measure how being involved in the girl talk groups improves self esteem and adjustment to their new lives in Thailand.

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I give for the future.
TaReva Warrick-Stone
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I truly believe the survival of humanity rests on the cessation of the marginalization of women throughout the world. First and foremost, fund birth control. Then education.
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