Hero: Prum Than


Exclusive one-on-one interviews with extraordinary individuals working on behalf of women, children, and families worldwide. 

“When a client told me that she would have died if she…[got] an abortion from untrained providers operating near our clinic, I really felt the impact of my work.”
Prum Than
Country / Region:


I dream that every woman in Cambodia will be born with good health and have an opportunity to get a good education like women in developed nations. In addition, I would love to one day see more Cambodian women acquire high positions in government, so as to better reflect and represent women’s social and economic rights and needs.


Prum Than is saving lives by educating Cambodian women on the importance of family planning and providing them with safe and confidential reproductive care.


IMOW:  What is Marie Stopes International in Cambodia, and what is your role there?

PRUM: Marie Stopes International is one of the largest international family planning organizations in the world. We provide expert, supportive advice and services on abortion, vasectomy, and sexual health. I am currently Center Manager of the Chiphou clinic in Svay Rieng province. I provide management support to four staff members on a daily basis, and provide family planning services to clients. I find this position to be both rewarding and challenging. On the rewarding side, I get to work with very committed staff in providing high quality service to clients. On the challenging side, I’m new to the management role and have lots to learn!

IMOW: How did you become interested in the topic of contraceptive health and family planning?  

PRUM: I became interested in contraceptive health and family planning after I had my children. I had heard a lot of rumors about family planning methods and I wanted to try for myself, so I learned about family planning through personal experience.  After I felt confident in my knowledge, I wanted to spread this information to other women.  Many people are poor and they have many children by accident, whom they can’t feed. They need to spend a lot of money to raise their children, which pulls them further into poverty.  In addition, not many trained contraceptive health providers are available in Cambodia. The result has been that many Cambodian women have unnecessarily died from pregnancy or birth complications or unsafe abortion.  I think working in contraceptive health and family planning can contribute to reducing the both poverty and the maternal mortality rate in Cambodia, because more women will be able to choose how many children they will have.

IMOW: What are the factors that come into play that keep a woman from choosing if, when and how she has a child?  

PRUM: It depends on two key factors: one, a woman’s health and likelihood of having a full-term pregnancy and two, if she will be able to raise an additional child along with her other children. Many of the women that come for services struggle to balance those two key factors.  Whatever decision they may make, I want to make sure they are fully aware of the choices available and know where to seek safe services, whether with Marie Stopes International Cambodia or government health facilities that we’re closely working with.  

IMOW: Tell me about your most defining moments in your work.

PRUM: When a client tells me that she would have died if she went somewhere else for an abortion service that is, getting an abortion from untrained providers operating near our clinic—I really feel the impact of my work.  Also, I’m happy to see more clients accessing Marie Stopes clinic – it means we’re making a difference in the community and that they trust us to provide quality healthcare. Most of all, I just feel proud to have the opportunity to work with MSIC’s highly committed team members in serving our clients on a daily basis. Most of all, seeing client’s smiles and feeling satisfied with the service they receive makes me happy and is very motivating!

IMOW: You operate a novel subsidized voucher program for health services—how does that program work?

PRUM: We provide information within the community through volunteers about family planning and safe abortion services, then we distribute vouchers at the community level. Women can redeem them at a safe service provider to get the service at a subsidized price. The purpose of the voucher program is assure that women receive low cost care ate pre-approved, safe health care facilities. I would say the project is a huge success, mainly due to MSIC having good collaboration with key players, such as government and private providers. In the future, I think the voucher scheme will be the best way to assure safe service for all women, regardless of who they are or where they live.

IMOW: What aspect of contraceptive health do you think has gotten the least attention, and why?

PRUM: In Cambodia, long-term family planning methods have received the least attention because of rumors within the community, particularly about intrauterine device (IUD) method. This is mainly due to the lack of knowledge, information, limited health facilities and some providers focusing on providing only short-term methods as they want to see the client return more frequently. I would say IUD is one of the most effective methods and yet the least understood. I hope this will change as we continue to work and provide accurate information to clients when they are seeking family planning services.

IMOW: What’s the change you’ve been able to instigate that you feel most proud of?

PRUM: Convincing women that there are safe abortion services in Cambodia and that they can choose.  They do not have to keep going to places that put their lives at risk.  They now prefer to come to my clinic because it is safe for them. Through informing women of their rights and the work I do at Marie Stopes, I think I have contributed to reducing unsafe abortion in Cambodia, and it’s a good feeling knowing that I’ve stopped a woman from going to a place that could cause her death. Secondly, I think I have increased my clients’ knowledge about contraceptive health and family planning, which empowers them to take control of their lives.

IMOW: What is the best lesson or advice your mother ever gave you?

PRUM: I can still vividly remember my mother’s advice to me:  “You must work hard and don’t be afraid to struggle to succeed in what you believe in.” These words are still very much a part of my life. This is what I try to impart when I train new MSIC staff.

IMOW: What is one thing that many people don’t know about you? 

PRUM: I don’t find my jokes funny at all, but people find them very funny! So now during training, I try to tell some jokes to keep the learning environment more enjoyable.     

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Help Prum realize her dream for Cambodian women!

Visit the Marie Stopes International website to get more information on her work or make a donation! www.mariestopes.org