“I was raised in a religious family, went to a Catholic school and lived in the Philippines, a country where religious beliefs are strong and influential. When I was young, I only knew about the condom as a form of contraception. I saw my sister taking some pills, but didn’t know it was another form of contraceptive.
“In my family, we never talked about sex or reproductive health and neither at school. When I was in grade 5, my science teacher told us that menstruation was initially created by God for men. She said, “God, noticed that men were dirty. Smearing their ‘bad blood’ everywhere – in the streets or on the wall. So, God decided to give menstruation to women instead”. I didn’t discuss it with my friends because I was too shy and worried they would judge me and think I was promiscuous.
“My sister got pregnant when she was 18 and was forced to get married. Most of my neighbors had their first child under the age of 20. And I got pregnant a year after I graduated from college. I was 23.
“In the Philippines, it is a widespread belief that abortion is a mortal sin and a woman who has one will go to hell. Women who had an abortion are considered dirty, murderers and that bad things will happen to them.
”It was when I moved to Cambodia and joined Marie Stopes International that I discovered other contraceptive methods and learnt about abortion. I was amazed that Cambodia was more advanced in terms of sexual and reproductive health and wished I knew all this information back in the Philippines, perhaps I would have made different choices.
“Two months after joining MSI, I got a contraceptive implant. I was very relieved that I didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant and at the same time, could enjoy my time with my husband. Three years later, I had it replaced. I knew I wasn’t ready yet – physically, emotionally, and financially – for another pregnancy. Contraceptive implant made significant changes in my life, my family, and how I perceive things.
“I’m pleased with my work. Everyday, I get to use my skills, experience and knowledge to help other women and men, not only in Cambodia but across the world. I belong to an organisation which changes people’s lives, respects human rights and provides choice. I believe that everyone should have choice and safe quality options when deciding about their sexual and reproductive health, including safe abortion. I stand up for women’s rights and choices and support their decisions.
“I’ll end this by sharing a quote from one of our clients who received abortion services. She said: “This is the start of my new life, a new beginning.”
Camille Tijamo is the Director of Integrated Marketing at Marie Stopes Cambodia.