Objectives

*To increase reproductive health knowledge among migrants
*To decrease social problems among migrant families by practicing safe sex and family planning
*Train Peer Educators from among migrant workers to spread messages about safe sex, family planning and STDs to their local communities and factories

Target

*Migrants living in 22 communities – 15 villages and 7 factories in Mae Sot and surrounding rural areas
Approximately 22,000 people live in this area; in 2011, the program reached 11,000 people

In 2003, SAW established the Health Education project to reduce HIV transmission among Burmese migrant workers through greater awareness and knowledge. SAW has been conducting HIV/AIDS education training, reproductive health training, and traditional birth attendants training in the target communities. In addition to Phop Phra, where the Health Education project partners with the MMT, SAW reaches a total of 22 communities around the Mae Sot area (urban, rural, factories and slums) which have a combined population of 22,000 Burmese migrants.

In 2010, the project reached 7,000 migrant workers in 4 factories and 7 communities in Mae Sot and surrounding areas. In 2011, SAW extended its reach to almost 11,000 migrant workers in 6 factories and 9 communities. SAW specifically targets communities that are hard to reach and are not served by other NGOs and CBOs.

Migrant workers face a number of barriers to accessing health services and experience risks to their physical and mental health due to their living conditions and experiences in the workplace. Moreover, language barriers and general insecurity limit their access to health related knowledge and information.

Reproductive health problems amongst teenagers and the women have been on the increase for years, including unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Unsafe abortions have proved to be a real issue, while an undetermined number of infants are abandoned and absorbed into the Burmese migrant workers community every year. Poverty has forced many women into unofficial prostitution – during the day they work in factories and after hours; engage in sex work in the factories and/or surrounding communities. Among other things, this has resulted in an increase in the instances of HIV and STDs in these communities.

In response to these factors, SAW established the Health Education project. Peer Educators – migrant workers from target communities – are trained to provide reproductive health information and education to their peers in the communities. They also distribute contraception (contraceptive pills and condoms) and when needed, refer their community peers to available health services (facilitated by SAW). Trained Peer Educators run one-on-one sessions, small group education sessions, and drama performances and drama workshops for the wider community relating to basic health priorities and reproductive health related subjects. The proximity of Peer Educators to their community members allows for greater comfort and ease – being present in the community, they are able to provide their fellow community members with ongoing support. SAW also produces health education materials to enhance general awareness on health issues, including T-Shirts, flyers, information pamphlets and announcements in Burmese language journals.

SAW’s Health Education team rotates through the communities on a monthly basis so each of the 22 communities gets one visit a month from the team. These sessions are used to debrief with Peer Educators on the community health situation and address any challenges or issues that have arisen during the month. It is also an opportunity for refresher training for the Peer Educators, if required. SAW, in partnership with the Peer Educators, also runs health discussions with groups of 20-50 people. Finally, the monthly meetings provide an opportunity for SAW to respond to the needs of any particular individuals that need support, by referring them to other SAW services or external services.

The Health Education project has made significant strides in improving the health situation of migrants in its target communities. The continuation of this project is critical to meeting the basic and essential needs of an already vulnerable migrant population on the Thai/Burma border.

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