The BBC World Service Trust, a subsidiary of BBC News, has held several health-education projects encouraging better awareness of health issues in Cambodia through various media since 2003. Two programmes that attract Cambodian youth listeners are Really and Hip Hop Girls, but they both were canned after the Department for International Development and Global Fund discontinued programming due to funding shortages.
Chan Chakriya says she learnt about prevention of HIV/AIDS and the risks of drug abuse by listening to the shows.
“Youths are facing many problems in their lives, and most of those problems are involved with love, drugs and sexual health. People on the programme almost are counsellors,” Chan Chakriya said.
Chan Chakriya and her friends have never discussed sex openly because of conservative Cambodian values. Since tuning in, they have quickly learnt about diseases and other threatening social issues.
Chorn Rotha, 23, is another avid listener of Really. He said he has gained much knowledge from this programme. He said the programme not only provided him with useful knowledge about love affairs and sexual health but also tips on studying and working.
Sok Leap, a young female listener, added: “These programmes may urge listeners to have a partner sooner because the presenters talk too directly about love and sex. Once I heard a guy with many girlfriends and most of them … were promiscuous in nature with multiple sex partners. It makes me more careful with my boyfriend,” Sok Leap said.
According to the National Committee for Population and development, over half of Cambodia’s population (60.4 percent) is younger than 24. Problems concerning and caused by youths are the most pressing because young Cambodians play a crucial role in shaping the country’s future.
Programmer and producer Pen Sophal said: “The problems were inherent and present in society. Based on statistics from the Education Ministry in 2004, most teenagers started to have sexual partner at 13 or 14 years old, whereas teenagers who did not go to school started to have their partner at about 11 .”
“If they start to have lovers at such a young age, they do not know how to protect themselves from detrimental social issues such as truancy, HIV/AIDS, drug, and so on,” Pen Sophal explained.