Vientiane, 11 July 2016
World Population Day is celebrated every 11th of July in over 90 countries around the world. The day seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, particularly in the context of overall development.
Photo: UNFPA Lao PDR
The theme for this year's World Population Day is, "Investing in adolescent girls". Adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 around the world face more challenges than their male counterparts.
More than 50 per cent of Lao PDR's total population is under the age of 25. A young population structure provides the opportunity for the country to benefit from a demographic dividend over the coming four decades.
“In order to maximize the benefits that bring about by the young population structure, we need to invest in human resources especially in the adolescent and young people of today,” said H.E. Dr. Southanou Thammavong, Secretary General of Lao Youth Union at a high level forum on, “How Investing in Adolescent Girls Today can Ensure Sustainable Development for Lao PDR”.
Ministries of Planning and Investment, Health and Education and Sport as well as the Lao Youth Union and the Lao Women's Union participated in the forum with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
H.E. Dr. Souphanh Keomixay, Minister of Planning and Investment stated: "We need greater investment in adolescent girls across all sectors. Investing in adolescent girls will yield huge returns on investments to Lao PDR."
Lao PDR has made considerable overall progress in the key areas of education and health in the past decade. However, girls living in rural areas face various challenges, compounded by poverty and ethnicity. Girls often cannot attend school, resulting in low enrollment and high dropout rates. They lack access to transformative information and health services as well as suffer various forms of disadvantage, discrimination and exclusion, merely for being young and female.
Mr. Kongsy Sengmany, Vice Minister of Education and Sport highlighted the importance of getting all girls in school and keeping the girls in school and the transformative impact education has on girls, their families and their countries.
“The need is to invest in education for adolescents in particular for girls – to provide them with the knowledge, skills and training they need to transition into adults who can strive for their own development and can support their families, communities and the nation,” said Mr. Kongsy Sengmany.
Lao PDR has the earliest age of marriage in the region. One in 10 girls are married by age 15. Early marriage is often associated with dangerous early pregnancy. Thus, Lao PDR also has the highest adolescent birth rate in the region, 94 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19. Linked to this adolescent birth rate is Lao PDR's maternal mortality rate, the highest in the South East Asian Region.
“We must make adolescent health in particular reproductive health for adolescent girls a priority. The importance is to translate the policy and strategy into action and this requires involvement from many sectors such as education and rural development and not only the health sector,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phouthone Mougpak, Minister of Health.
Ms. Frederika Meijer, Representative of UNFPA added that: "When adolescent girls flourish, their families and communities flourish as well. The benefits will go a long way in a girl’s lifetime, and for generations to come. Investing in girls unlocks untapped potential, and breaks the cycle of poverty. It is a smart investment."
Some progress has been registered in developing legal and policy frameworks for protecting the rights of women and girls. The Government and development partners are now working to translate these frameworks into action. “Empowering adolescent girls through education, health and protection from all forms of violence and exploitation as well as ensuring their active participation in decision-making is key in achieving the country’s graduation from the Least Developed Country Status,” said Dr. Inlavanh Keobounphanh, President of Lao Women Union.
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Phiengsavanh Thammasith, UN Division, Department of International Cooperation, MPI
Tel: + 856-21-222214
Vanly Lorkuangming - Communications Associate, UNFPA Lao PDR
Tel: + 856 21 315547, 353048 - 9
Mobile: + 856 20 99903355