This year is significant as Caritas’s Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health program (CCAMH) invited mothers and caregivers of children with disabilities to celebrate the International Women’s Day at Chey Chumnas hospital in Kandal province.
The International Women’s Day is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s struggle and achievement to gain equal rights. Many countries observe the day with conference, meeting, campaign, networking event and so on.
Caritas Cambodia has declared ‘Journey of Compassion’ as the development-theme/ motto for the year 2018. Dr. Bhoomikumar, the Director and Consultant Child Psychiatrist of CCAMH said the celebration is a tribute to women who embody compassion in daily life, and in the family. Most of the children with different abilities are nurtured and cared for either by mother or grandmother. Often the women find it a challenge to make ends meet, as they could not find time for livelihood opportunities, burdened by caregiving activities for the child with special needs. It was a great pleasure to have the presence of members of the parent association, children, and the dignitaries from the Cambodian senate and Indian government.
In addition to honoring mothers of children with different abilities and the caregivers on International Women’s Day, Dr. Bhoomikumar emphasized this day highlights the role of parents, especially mothers and female caregivers by giving them opportunity to share their life experiences on how they struggle to raise their children. Furthermore, it is an opportunity for the policy and decision makers to know the challenges faced by women and advocate for special assistance and support from the government and other key stakeholders. For the first time, the Embassy of India in Phnom Penh is headed by a women and we are happy that HE Mme. Manika Jain graced the occasion to felicitate the mothers of children with different abilities.
Many parents were delighted to come together and celebrate the women’s day with their children.
Ms. Sek Marom, lives in Kandal province and is a mother of a Down syndrome child spoke on behalf of the parent group. She described that she was heartbroken when he son was diagnosed as Down syndrome. She told during that time she kept on searching places to support him until he was registered at CCAMH in 2008. After regular follow-up, doctor’s appointments, counseling and above all her care and effort had considerable impact on her son.
“I am thankful to the professionalism of the doctors and staff at CCAMH who support us, my son as well as other parents and children from across the country”, she said. “Being a parent of children with disability, we should not be hopeless and do not give-up at all. Our children need care, love from us as their parents. The key to success in raising them well is to stay strong and start our self-confident”, she stressed.
Ms. Sek Marom suggested all partners, particularly the government to build a school for children living with special needs to earn a better life for their future and provide a special health care service for them.
Mr. Touch Mun, a father of a 17 year old daughter with severe mental health problem from Phnom Penh, shared similar struggling experience. Early, it was hard for him and family to accept the reality of their daughter. She was unpredictable, he said, but in all circumstances as parents we need to be supportive for our children.
CCAMH’ overarching goal is to improve the quality of life of children and adolescents, particularly with neuro-psychiatric problems and intellectual challenges through women and family empowerment strategies Ms. Sok Dearozet , the Program Manager of CCAMH took the opportunity to present the women centered activities, challenges of mothers of children with different abilities, the vital role of mother as a co-therapist and the future planning for the program. A video of a real life story of a family having a child with Down syndrome and the work of CCAMH was also presented in her session.
According to Ms. Dearozet, the program is committed to continue to strengthen parents through caregiver training. She mentioned the possible collaboration with the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPD) in India and Rehabilitation Council of India to start formal/ accredited courses in disability sector in Cambodia and in child and adolescent mental health in partnership with National Institute for Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) in India.
Her Excellency Manika Jain, Ambassador, Embassy of India in Phnom Penh expressed ‘it’s a great honor to be with mothers of children with different abilities to celebrate the International Women’s Day this year’. She shared her own personal life-story and the commitment of her grandmother when she had difficulty in walking in early life, and appreciated the the commitment of the wonderful women. Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of investing in education and health for children with different abilities, especially mental and intellectual challenges, as this issue is often been hidden and neglected. “The celebration today is a symbolic event of our support to not only Cambodian women but all women around the world. We came to celebrate their important role and achievement in different function”, said Her Excellency Manika Jain.
To commemorate the International Women’s Day, the government of India expressed its commitment with government of Cambodia to ensure that women are empowered and their rights are respected. Her Excellency, Ambassador Manika Jain, congratulated the Royal Government of Cambodia and CCAMH for their effort to support children with disabilities and their families.
On behalf of the Royal government of Cambodia, HE. Dr. Ouk Kong, Cambodian senior senator and member of Human Rights Committee acknowledged Cambodian women still encounter challenges and all of these need to be addressed and it is a long way to go together. HE. Dr. Ouk Kong encouraged further collaboration and partnership of all stakeholders.
HE Ambassador Manika Jain, H. E. Dr. Ouk Kong and Mr. Kim Rattana, Executive Director, Caritas Cambodia felicitated parents, children and caregivers by giving gifts in appreciation of their commitment to serve children with special needs.
Caritas’s CCAMH is pioneering organization to provide quality service for children with neuropsychiatric, developmental and mental disabilities. CCAMH offers consistent support to mothers of children with disability through transport allowance, support income generation activities and provide opportunities for stress reduction, relaxation training and meditation. Our services would not have been possible without consistent support from our donors and partners.
Thanks to the Royal Government of Cambodia, the Ministry of health and in-line departments. Thanks the government of India, during the 1980s, was one of the first to establish diplomatic contact and a shipload of hospital instruments, beds and diagnostic equipment worth $200,000 was donated to the Chey Chumneas hospital for it to achieve referral hospital status. During the UNTAC period, three doctors were assigned to work at this hospital under International Technical Exchange Cooperation (ITEC) program. With the support of India Brazil South Africa (IBSA) Trust Fund a ‘one-stop-service’ has been established for children with special needs.
The event came to an end with tree-planting at the ‘disability-friendly play-ground’ and sharing of refreshments with parents, children and guests.