What do Cabbages have to do with Condoms?

December 1 is World AIDS Day, so this morning we marched in a parade from the center of town to the Mae Tao clinic.

Today’s activities reminded me that while we were in Chiang Rai, we found one of the famous “Cabbages and Condoms” restaurants next door to the Hilltribe Musuem.

It’s a surprising name — and that’s precisely the point.  Restaurants like these help generate income for projects by Thailand’s Population and Community Development Association (PDA), an NGO that promotes “better understanding and acceptance of family planning.”

The founder of PDA believed that it should be as easy to find condoms as it is to find everyday items like cabbages.  And you know what?  Now it is.  Earlier today, a friend who had recently taught in Korea remarked on this very difference between cultures, saying that she was surprised how open it was here compared to Korea.  It’s all because of Mechai Viravaidya, Thailand’s “Condom King.

From PDA’s website:

Thailand’s success in family planning is one of the most famous in recent history. PDA’s innovative program, which included the non-physician, community-based distribution of oral contraceptives and condoms, including a clinic referral service, contributed significantly to the decrease of Thailand’s annual population growth rate from 3.3% in the 1970s to 0.8% in 2002. PDA used humor and a common sense approach which resonated in communities, and partnered with local government agencies to reach out to communities beyond the local governments’ ability to serve. Through the recruitment of volunteers, including over 320,000 rural school teachers, PDA was able to leverage its work and expand the program into most of rural Thailand.

Since I’ve been volunteering in this little NGO town of ours, I’ve been thinking about and learning about effective programs to raise awareness and social change, and this is definitely going on my list of ideas to pay attention to.  Humor is a very good thing in this case.

You should feel very safe eating at C&C, as their motto is “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy” (ha!).

Pretty much everything is condom-themed or designed to raise awareness, like this Santa:

And this happy little poster:

We didn’t end up eating here because it was the middle of the day for us, but this small restaurant was still packed with customers.   Apparently you get a condom instead of a mint at the end of the meal.

PDA also does great work with raising awareness about the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Their website says that they hold “Miss Anti-AIDS” beauty contests in parts of Bangkok that have a lot of sex workers.

C&C’s most famous restaurant is in Bangkok, but now it appears that diners in the UK can enjoy this very unique dining experience, too.  Maybe the US will be next?

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