From 30 May to 3 June, a ‘Regional Learning Exchange’ took place in Phnom Penh, including more than 35 participants from Alliance partners in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Here, Zamzuri Abdul Malik from the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC), the Alliance’s Linking Organisation in Malaysia, shares his reflections on the exchange.
This is my first visit to Cambodia. I was greeted with a bright sunny morning when we touched down at the Phnom Penh International Airport. The next morning , the team from Malaysian AIDS Council, including a member of our Executive Committee, staff from our Sex Workers and Treatment, Care and Support Clusters, and yours truly from the Training and Capacity Enhancement Cluster, were ushered to the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance (KHANA), the Alliance Linking Organisation in Cambodia, to begin the Regional Learning Exchange.
The Regional Learning Exchange was divided into three parts: a two-day workshop on the ‘Integration of HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)’, a two-day horizontal learning exchange on KHANA’s ‘Focused Prevention Programme’ with sex workers, and a final roundtable review and reflection session on the last day to discuss the week.
Integrating HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights
The integration workshop was facilitated by MAMTA – the Health Institute for Mother and Child, and Alliance India. Kudos to Dr Sunil Mehra, from MAMTA, and Ms Sunita Grote, of Alliance India, who did a great job in presenting all the topics in interactive ways that encouraged the participants to be involved in the workshop. I am glad that the facilitators decided to make this an activity-based workshop thus making learning fun. Some key learning from the workshop was:
-Integration between HIV/AIDS and SRHR opens a bigger opportunity for capacity building and services in Malaysia. For example, we could integrate our programme with government services, and better train our volunteers, doctors and nurses.
- The way other NGOs do their HIV/AIDS and SRHR work opens up opportunities to learn and re-learn on best practices and better approaches in programmes, services and policies.
We now have platforms for cross-organizational and cross-country exchange and learning on strategies, challenges and opportunities of implementing HIV/SRHR integration at programme, policy and organizational levels.
Chhim Kolab of KHANA has also blogged about this workshop, you can read it here.
Horizontal learning exchange: learning about prevention
The next two days saw us visiting and sharing experience with KHANA and its partners on its Focused Prevention programme. The programme reaches 14,000 people, the majority of whom are sex workers, injecting drug users or men who have sex with men, and uses outreach and peer education for HIV prevention, and to challenge community norms and stigma.
We visited four partner organizations, each of which have their own unique program and services in reversing the negative impact of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia. Save Incapacity Teenagers focuses on peer facilitators and peer educators for entertainment workers. Korsang and KHANA Demonstration Centre focus on injecting drug users, and CARAM focuses on migrant workers.
I was particularly amazed with the peer facilitators and educators’ approach, as they have been able to empower entertainment workers to wear condoms every time they have sex. They have also managed to get the government to agree on a 100% Condom Use Policy.
Another highlight for me was Korsang’s drop-in centre for female injecting drug users. The facility caters for women and children, and has a big area for children to play around. This is a very good concept that understands the need of female injecting drug users.
Reviewing, reflecting and next steps
The last day had a round table review and reflection session. We summed up what we learned, how we learned it, and what we will do when we go back to our countries. Overall, it was a great opportunity to learn and share a wealth of knowledge and experience from others in the region. The way we do our HIV/AIDS program is now strengthened with the integration of SRHR.
For us, our immediate action will be to present our key learning to MAC’s Executive Committee in order for us to set up a task force to take forward the integration of HIV/AIDS and SRHR in Malaysia.
The Alliance Horizontal Learning Exchange Scheme is designed to support mutual learning, sharing and partnership across the Alliance. The exchange involves a visit between two Linking Organisations, Country Offices, or Technical Support Hubs. The exchanges are made possible through financial and facilitation support from the Alliance Secretariat in the UK.
The Alliances’ communities of practice are one way for Alliance staff to share their questions, experiences, approaches, tools and ideas with others from around the world who are working on the same issues. The SRHR/HIV Integration Community of Practice is intended for programme staff across the Alliance who are working on integration issues, to collectively and individually make sense of international trends, the latest research and challenges faced in their work, and to learn from each other. The group is open to anyone in the Alliance partnership with an interest in SRHR.