Over the last 8 years, my work has focused on research on how to improve access to family planning for the most vulnerable women in South and Southeast Asia. I have led large scale quasi-experimental evaluations of reproductive health and family planning voucher programs in Cambodia and Bangladesh, which have informed program scale up in both countries. In Nepal and Bangladesh, I have led research on the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents, resulting in innovative program design in Nepal and is facilitating policy change in Bangladesh. Currently, I co-lead an initiative to improve access to family planning services to over 100,000 female garment workers in Cambodia, through research, improved service delivery and policy change, and the engagement of diverse stakeholders.
I became keenly aware of the multiplicative effects of family planning as I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on how women's labor force participation in the developing world was changing their roles as parents and the wellbeing of their families. With the focus of my work on women's empowerment in countries like Nepal and Bangladesh, I have seen first hand the transformative effect of family planning in promoting healthier families, gender equity and the prosperity of entire nations.
In conservative societies, sex education, and services for reproductive health and family planning are denied to vulnerable groups such as adolescents because of taboos associated with sexuality outside of marriage, despite significant demonstrated need. In Bangladesh, I am part of an initiative that is assisting the government to facilitate adolescent friendly health centers to break down such barriers and to improve access to critical information and services for vulnerable adolescents.
A common challenge that I continue to see across the S and SE Asia region is that there is not yet a culture of demanding and utilizing rigorous evidence to make important decisions around delivering or ensuring equity of family planning services. Governments, program implementers and stakeholders must be supported to adopt and institutionalize efforts to strengthen and facilitate evidence-based planning, programming and decision making and to implement it in practice.
I would like to continue to conduct rigorous research on how to improve access to family planning for vulnerable women in S and SE Asia, while promoting evidence based decision-making and planning in the field. As lead researcher for the project on Cambodian garment workers , I hope to deliver robust evidence that government of Cambodia, industry stakeholders, and program implementers can utilize to inform the design of scaleable and sustainable programs and policies in the sector in the region.