I just concluded my employment with the GTZ Health Programme, who I’ve been with since 2006, on a team collaborating with the Ministry of Health and partners on social health protection strategy and policies for Cambodia. Concurrent with health financing initiatives, the programme is active in developing quality accreditation processes at the provincial, district and facility levels. I was responsible for monitoring, evaluation and reporting, the Safe Motherhood programme and patient rights advocacy.
Vastly challenging and rewarding though working on this programme was, after much thought about my role on the team, I finally came to the conclusion that it was too limited on the community mobilisation side, a personal interest that is simply outside the mandate of the programme. I opted to cut the salary ties and go the independent consultancy route. I found myself in a second-guessing cold sweat for several weeks after that decision, but in the end there is no other option.
The disconnect between policy/programme priorities and the goals of the community was not being addressed, and vertical programming is inadequate to address the social issues among the population. Amid the rapid changes in Cambodia’s health care system, it’s a crucial time to build upon the grassroots infrastructure. So I’m currently exploring options for lifestyle messaging trainings. In this I’m referencing primarily safe motherhood/delivery messages considering the high maternal and infant mortality rates (MMR and IMR) in Cambodia (two of our millennium development goals). Having worked on health financing initiatives and in light of Cambodia’s social health protection strategy, in addition to the personal financial planning gaps highlighted by the global economic downturn, I’m also investigating financial literacy as a component of such public health messages.
Another project I’m involved with is developing a Centre for Exchange in Phnom Penh and Vientiane. Back in college, friends and I set up an Asian American organisation under the leadership of a smart businesswoman I greatly admire, Latsamy. Today it is still very active in advocacy and networking. There was a lot of great input from members, and mentorship from a Pakistani activist, Asma Barlas. We’re aiming to set up a platform for Khmer-, Hmong- and Lao-American students to network with fellow students in Cambodia and Laos to promote, advocate and develop sustainable solutions to issues in these two countries.
I’m still concepting the programming strategy for both and bouncing ideas around with fellow consultants and startups. I’ll keep you posted :-)