In a first for Asia, AHF Cambodia and partners took a big step towards helping young women and girls build better lives for themselves by officially launching the first-ever AHF Girls Act program on the continent last month.
Every week, nearly 7,000 young women ages 15-24 become infected with HIV around the world, and approximately 44 girls ages 10-19 died every day from AIDS-related illnesses in 2018. Girls Act seeks to reverse the factors that contribute to these staggering statistics, including difficulty accessing education and healthcare services, sexual assault and harassment, early or forced marriages, and unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.
Sorn Kanika, Girls Act representative and a young woman who was born with HIV due to mother-to-child transmission, addressed the more than 60 ceremony participants, which included community NGOs and government officials. The unique event also allocated time for other girls living with HIV from local communities to engage directly with senior officials face-to-face via group discussions.
“Self-esteem, self-confidence, and motivation—these are the key elements that girls need in their lives to succeed—and Girls Act helps with that,” said Kanika. “Today we called for government and stakeholders to create an enabling environment for girls in need and to establish a network for youth programs that encourage participation and address critical areas such as sexual and reproductive health.”
“Government supports AHF and is appreciative for it initiating the Girls Act campaign with participation from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and other NGOs,” said H.E. Ieng Mouly, Senior Minister and Chair of the Cambodia National AIDS Authority. “This initiative is a great start towards reducing the vulnerabilities of young women and girls in Cambodia, and we also want to help empower the millions of girls worldwide who regularly face poverty, abuse and harassment, and difficulties accessing health services.”
The Girls Act campaign was first launched in 2016 to address the vital needs of young women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa and has since expanded to over a dozen countries. AHF first began working in Cambodia in 2005 and currently has 40,353 clients in care.