This profile was prepared when Nattaya Boonpakdee was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Gender equality is recognized in public settings, but heteronormative gender roles dominate Thai culture and remain the root cause of many sexual health problems in Thailand. Recognizing that sexual health problems are inseparable from cultural norms, Nattaya is creating a pervasive cultural shift to change sexual health behavior, as a preventive approach to sexually-transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy, and sexual violence. She founded the Women’s Health Advocacy Foundation (WHAF) to identify leaders of behavioral change in strategic cultural settings and augment their impact. In collaboration with these partners, Nattaya is developing a collection of adaptable strategies to push people to think outside “the gender box,” encouraging Thais to think outside traditional aggressive male and submissive female gender roles. Nattaya’s organization provides seed funding, continued mentorship, and networking to accelerate the development of new conversations and behavioral changes. WHAF has established camps for parents and grandparents who raise teenagers, public high school theater clubs focused on peer-to-peer sex education, and house visits to reach stay-at-home wives. Nattaya works with healthcare providers at public hospitals to integrate existing services and establish a referral system, resulting in a more supportive environment for women and youth at One Stop Crisis Centers, a government program implemented in 2006 at every public hospital in Thailand. As a result of Nattaya’s work, an estimated 10 million people in 40 provinces across Thailand are changing behaviors and receiving accurate information about sexual health, thus able to safeguard their own sexual health and that of others. Nattaya is developing a facilitating environment for these behavioral changes to spread nationally, through national media campaigns, reallocation of local government budgets, and legislative changes.