Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's talk about sex, baby

Today was one of those days that make it all worthwhile. I feel inspired, that my work is meaningful and that there's a sense of purpose behind what I do.

For a bit of context, let me rewind a day. At one point during yesterday's Mekong Delta tour, our guide discussed the country's problem with population control, contributed in part by an unwillingness to discuss sex in Vietnamese culture. As a consequence, not only is unwanted pregnancy on the rise, so are STDs like HIV/AIDS.

Cut to today's factory visit. We recently partnered with a Vietnamese factory to invest in a factory-based health education program for women in developing countries, and today I had the chance to observe a training session.

Since the training was conducted entirely in Vietnamese, I didn't understand the content, but I got a sense of the discussion from the condoms, leaflets and birth control pills that were being used as props and handed out. I especially liked the photo used on one of the instructor's slides, pasted for your convenience above.

Entering today's training, I was worried that the training session might be fruitless, given my understanding of the discomfort surrounding talking about sex. The women in the session, however, seemed very engaged throughout the doctor's presentation. And when it came time for questions, they were eager to learn more! The participants seemed hungry for this information and it was clear that these concepts were new to them. I was relieved to see this level of engagement and felt good that our investment was not in vain.

Today's visit also included a meeting with the factory's management team, who shared some of their experiences in implementing the program. Sure, they cited some frustrations, but most of them had to do with logistics and not the core content of the training. Everyone seemed to believe in the importance of delivering health training. There are opportunities to deliver the program more smoothly, but nothing that cannot be overcome.

But what I didn't expect was to hear the factory managers cite this investment as a potential competitive advantage. Even though the training program was launched only a few months ago, they have already seen participants taking these learnings back to their families and communities. The factory is beginning to earn a reputation as a preferred employer and people in the community seem to appreciate the added investment in worker education. In a time when all factories, across all industries, face tremendous challenges in recruiting Vietnamese workers, this is an obvious business benefit.

In thinking about my career path, I never would have imagined that I'd spend a day at work sitting in a sex ed class in Vietnam, but today has turned out to be one of the most gratifying days of my career.

1 comment:

room8j said...

YAAAAAAAAAAY!!! Great post. Love the photo, too.