The Lao Youth Union (LYU), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Laos-China Railway (LCR) launched counseling helpline materials at all railway stations and substations in Laos on Friday.
Posters and videos with information on sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and psychosocial support helplines will be displayed at train stations and disseminated to passengers in collaboration with UNAIDS UN joint program.
Laos has a young population with almost half of the population below 25 years old. Youth are the driving force for the country’s economic development, social welfare, and future prosperity.
Young people are also crucial players in accelerating the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) program of action.
The youth in Laos face multiple vulnerabilities including poverty, limited access to youth-friendly health services, and poor nutrition. Challenges to their livelihoods and well-being include few opportunities for economic empowerment and gaining essential life skills.
Women from remote areas, poor families, and those who are from ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable to early/child marriage, adolescent pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, violence, and pregnancy-related complications.
“The Government of Laos has put immense efforts into addressing adolescent girls’ vulnerabilities,” said Mr. Souliya Keophilavong, Permanent Secretary of the Lao’s People Revolutionary Youth Union.
“Together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and partners, Lao Youth Union utilizes the Noi framework, launched in 2016 to empower adolescent girls and boys through increased investment and comprehensive programs,” he noted.
UNFPA programs aim to create a conducive environment where all youth, especially girls, thrive. All adolescent girls should have the opportunities, information, and services they need to achieve their full potential, make informed decisions, and be able to choose if and when to get married and have children. The Noi approach continuously strengthens the ecosystem for adolescent girls in Laos.
The Lao Youth Union led the development of adolescent and youth policy and the Youth law, which advocate for multi-sector investments such as youth-friendly services training for healthcare providers; comprehensive sexuality education for students in primary and secondary schools, technical and vocational colleges; essential life-skills to adolescent girls through Nang-Noi Girls Groups; creating safe spaces for girls and women; strengthening research evidence on adolescents; and ending violence against women and girls through expanding partnerships.
“The Laos-China Railway brings benefits to transportation, tourism, and many sectors in the country,” said Ms. Siliphone Sakulku, Officer-in-charge of UNFPA.
“With more and more commuters using the railway domestically and internationally, information and knowledge on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Gender rights, Mental Health, and Psychosocial Support will help protect travelers, especially young people from potential vulnerabilities and exploitations,” he stated.
In December 2021, Laos officially inaugurated the Vientiane-Boten Railway, a 422,4-kilometre (km) electrified high-speed railway between the capital and the Laos-China border at Boten.
Since opening, the train has carried more than 2.4 million passengers, transporting adolescents and young people from northern provinces to Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Now with the cross-border passenger service available, the number of railway passengers is expected to rise sharply.
Mr. Anongdeth Phetkaisone, Deputy Managing Director of the Laos-China Railway (LCRC), said, “We are delighted to use our existing platform to help the adolescent and youth in Laos. LCR will continue our support of the Lao Government and UNFPA in bringing these essential services to the adolescents and young people in the country.”