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National Investment in Adolescent Girls Essential

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Laos needs to invest in adolescent girls to reduce their early marriage and early pregnancy rates, officials highlighted at a press conference yesterday.

Laos still has the highest proportion of early marriage and early pregnancy in the ASEAN region, in which 1 in 5 girls aged 15-19 have already gave birth.

The press conference to mark International Day of the Girl Child in Vientiane, under the theme: Investing in Adolescent Girls for Sustainable Development was attended by Deputy General Secretary, Lao Youth Union Mr. Alounxay Sounalath and Vice President of Lao Women’s Union Ms Thoummaly Vongphachanh.

Ms Thoummaly said the press conference marked the beginning of a unique 15-day media campaign from October 11-25 to generate more awareness on issues about adolescent girls and a call to everyone for more investment in them to ensure the nation achieves its Sustainable Development Goals.

A girl must have the opportunity to decide her own future. Whenever a girl’s potential goes unrealised we all lose and we will not be able to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including gender equality, she said.

The inspirational 2030 Agenda, adopted in 2015 by the global community, urged countries to set national targets for the 17 SDGs. They promised to help transform the future of millions of 10 year- old girls who have traditionally been left behind, she added.

This year is the kickoff of the implementation of SDGs; United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) together with the Lao government will work in partnership to call for greater investment in adolescent girls that can greatly contribute to the achievement of the goals.

Deputy Minister of Ministry of Planning and Investment, Mr KhamlienPholesna said Our population is high in young people and half of these young people are girls.

He said to enable the country to fully realise the demographic dividend, We must ensure that young people in particular adolescent girls, who are often lagging behind, are at the heart of our country’s development agenda as the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan puts a great focus on human resource development.

The government’s priority was to ensure that all Lao women and men could reach their full potential and become productive, healthy and happy citizens, he said.

UNFPA Representative, Ms Frederika Meijer said the joint campaign would increase knowledge on adolescent girls’ issues and diminish obstacles to their development.

She said today’s 60 million 10 year-old girls around the world represented both a challenge and an opportunity.

Girls in many parts of the world faced a wall of obstacles to their health and rights when they reach age 10; the start of adolescence which is a significant period that could determine the rest of their lives and their countries, she said.

In Laos, there are 700,230 adolescent girls aged 10-19. Considerable overall progress has been made in education and health in recent decades.

Source: Vientiane Times