Students in Bokeo Debate on LGBTQ+ Issues on International Day of the Girl Child

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This week, adolescents in Huayxai district, Bokeo province took part in a debate competition on the theme ‘my body, my rights to mark International Day of the Girl Child.

Those taking part debated on issues like sexual reproductive health, rights, equality for girls, and girls’ leadership.

The event was organized by Plan International Laos, the Bokeo provincial Education and Sports Department, and the province’s Women’s Union to provide information on safeguarding, gender equality, and inclusion. They also provided training in public speaking and debate competition for candidates in the run-up to the competition, which took place on October 2-3.

The Acting Deputy Country Director of Programmes with Plan International Laos, Mr Vilasak Viraphanh, said “It is important to provide a safe space for young people to raise their voices, express their ideas, showcase their competency in public speaking and defend their beliefs by using evidence, speaking skills, teamwork and time management appropriately.”

“Plan International has worked with children and young people in Laos to advance their rights to education, health, and equality for girls to raise their voices since 2007. We intend to benefit over one million people, including 700,000 adolescent girls, over the next five years. Our Country Strategy prioritises adolescent girls, especially those from ethnic communities,” he added.

During their training before the debate competition, the candidates were demonstrated ways to debate effectively and how to research resources. Young people observed, learned and rehearsed their speeches in front of their peers and chaperones.

The head of the team, Sakkuna Lachamp, spoke about the skills she learned during the training session, “Public speaking is one of the necessary skills for debating and is something we must practice regularly to become natural and fluent speakers.”

Eight debate teams from seven secondary schools in Huayxai district participated in the debate competition. The final round saw Sakkuna Lachamp and Samakhi Khuephalang win a LAK 5 million scholarship (approximately USD 298) for their debate on the topic ‘Choosing to become a different gender from what you were born is incorrect’.

Scholarships worth LAK 11 million (around USD 656) in total were awarded. The first runner-up won LAK 3 million (USD 179) worth of scholarship money, while scholarships worth LAK 2 million (USD 119) were awarded to the second runner-up, and LAK 1 million (USD 70)  scholarship was awarded as a consolation prize.

“It was exciting and challenging to speak in public, and against our opponents. The topic was important and highlights the current situation in our country. Every human being has the right to be and to do whatever they wish,” said a member of one of the winning teams, Sakkuna Lachamp.

The Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union recently banned transgender participants from beauty pageants and this decision has provoked a public backlash in Laos.