A provincial celebration of World Population Day: “Towards demographic resilience: supporting individuals’ rights and choices”, was held by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), Savannakhet authorities and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to spotlight Lao PDR’s changing demographics and the importance of family planning.
UNFPA joined the Vice Minister of MPI and Vice Governor of Savannakhet, along with representatives from provincial departments, ministries of Planning and Investment, Health, Education, Lao Youth Union, Lao Women’s Union, civil society and youth to mark WPD and discuss key factors of demographic resilience, investing in youth women, and the high returns on investments in family planning .
Lao population growth is changing the population structure, to impact all social sectors especially education, health and social. Based on current trends, the national population is projected to increase to 8.1 million in 2030.
The largest age groups will be people of working age and females of reproductive age from 15 to 49 years. The development and empowerment of those entering the working age is urgent to harness the chances for demographic dividend.
Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative to Lao PDR, said: ”With less than 8 years to go before 2030, the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, acceleration and innovation is required to transform the lives of women and girls and reach those furthest behind. When individuals, especially women and girls are able to exercise their bodily autonomy, the human capital of the country is strengthened and they can contribute to social and economical growth.”
Laos has high rates of secondary school drop out, child marriage, early childbearing, unmet needs for family planning. COVID-19 has further impacted these indicators for the most vulnerable. UNFPA partners with all who are willing to invest in the empowerment of women and girls and include men and boys to promote healthy masculinity, reject gender-based violence and embrace equality and equity.
Dr. Sthabandith Insisienmay, Vice minister of MPI said: ”Ensuring rights for all is the responsibility of the family, teachers, community and every counterpart. MPI works closely with UNFPA to ensure Adolescent Youth Friendly Services are implemented everywhere providing comprehensive information and care as part of the national commitments of Lao PDR.”
In Savannakhet, unmet need for family planning is 18.6% amongst married women and 32% of women aged 20-24 years old were married before the age of 18, while school drop out rates are above the national average.
”Savannakhet is the largest province of Lao PDR with 14 districts and one city and 1024 villages. 78% of the population is living in rural areas. We believe that rights and choices are important for the future of the population, especially youth and women at working age. Savannakhet was the first province to elaborate provincial and district implementation plans of the 9th Five-Year National Socio-Economic Development Plan (2021-2025) and ICPD25,” Ms. Lingthong Sengtavanh, The Vice Governor of Savannakhet Province said.
The World Population Day is an occasion for Central and Provincial authorities to review the progress on commitments made to ”ICPD25” to address these issues and to invest in data, and strengthen services midwifery, family planning, comprehensive sexual education and ending gender-based violence.
The delegation visited projects supported by UNFPA. A district hospital delivering reproductive health services, a midwifery school, a vocational training center to meet teachers trained on comprehensive sexuality education, a factory implementing sexual reproductive health care for youth employees and a community service educating men on positive roles to support bodily autonomy and encourage women to seek family planning services.