Changemaker- Melissa Cockroft
27 May 2013 at 11:01 am
Melissa Cockroft is a Technical Support Manager with Marie Stopes International Cambodia.
This week she will attend the Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, selected as one of 100 Young Leaders globally to participate in the conference.
This week we profile Melissa in Changemakers – a regular column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.
Marie Stopes International is an international non-governmental organisation working in over 40 countries on sexual and reproductive health.
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
I work as Technical Support Manager with Marie Stopes International (MSI) Cambodia. At MSI Cambodia, I’m responsible for providing technical support to our Research and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team and our Pregnancy Options and Advice Hotline.
For Research and M&E, I ensure that all of the data and information collected by our clinics and project teams is of a high quality so that we can make evidence based decisions and report accurately to donors. Our hotline provides information to Cambodian women and men on sexual and reproductive health as well as referrals and booking to safe health services.
I’m currently looking at how we can improve the hotline service by improving the quality of counselling and upgrading the hotline system. We are also looking at specific ways the hotline can better reach women particularly youth, through promotional activities in the community, at schools and universities and through the use of social media such as Facebook.
What drew you to the not-for-profit sector?
I was fortunate to have travelled a lot in South-East Asia and the Pacific on holiday with my parents and sister when I was younger. I loved immersing myself in foreign cultures, trying new foods and learning languages. I was also interested in women’s rights and issues related to poverty and inequality, so working in international development seemed like a natural fit.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
I’ve been working in international development in sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS for over five years. I’ve worked for a range of local and international organisations, mostly in Cambodia.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
What I like best about working for MSI Cambodia is that we work directly to reduce maternal mortality and improve women’s lives by reducing unsafe abortion and increasing contraceptive use.
We provide much needed reproductive health services to Cambodian women and men through both our own clinic networks and through our work building the capacity of the Cambodian Ministry of Health.
Due to stigma, lack of awareness and access to safe services, women still take terrible risks to deal with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. Working with MSI Cambodia I feel in some small way I am contributing to towards the goal of women’s universal right to sexual and reproductive healthcare.
My greatest challenge is …
One of the biggest challenges we face is finding innovative ways to raise awareness in the community about family planning and unsafe abortion. In Cambodia, there are still many myths and rumours around family planning which discourages women from using contraception. This can lead to multiple unwanted pregnancies and repeat abortions, so providing accurate information is critical.
Reaching youth to provide information on sexual and reproductive health is particularly challenging as social and cultural norms dictate that young unmarried women should not be sexually active in the first place. For example, we see a lot of young garment factory workers seeking services at our clinics and calling our hotline. As a result, we are working directly with garment factories to provide information, selected contraceptive methods and referrals for garment workers to our MSI clinics and other safe services.
What (or who) inspires you?
Sexual and reproductive healthcare is a universal right. Not just in Cambodia but globally, there is still a huge unmet need for safe accessible reproductive health services.
Women still don’t have access to the full range of modern contraceptives and women are still dying unnecessarily due to the lack of available services and information. I’m also inspired by my MSI Cambodia colleagues who are so dedicated and work incredibly hard to improve the quality of life of women and men in Cambodia.
For more information about the work of Marie Stopes International visit www.mariestopes.org.au