Laos has one of the highest rates of early marriages and teen pregnancies in the region, and government and private institutions are calling for an urgent need to improve women healthcare services, increase awareness on sexual and reproductive health, and prevent gender based violence.
Gender equality and strong health support for adolescent girls are vital measures to achieve zero preventable maternal death rates in Laos, according to Deputy Prime Minister Kikeo Khaykhamphithoun, who spoke at the National Conference on Population and Development on Monday at Lao Plaza in Vientiane Capital.
The meeting, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), put extra focus on investing in midwifery to improve healthcare and educational outcomes for girls and women. The project aims to ensure that all midwives receive comprehensive training and can apply their expertise effectively, especially in remote and underserved areas.
At the event, Bakhtiyor Kadyrov, the UNFPA Representative to Laos, outlined key initiatives, including a law that prioritizes investments in adolescents and youth, with a particular emphasis on girls. These efforts are guided by the “Noi framework” and “Noi ecosystem.”
The Noi 2030 framework in Laos is a plan that focuses on helping all young girls by carrying out activities that are sensitive to gender issues, such as tackling gender-related issues and power dynamics, educating children on teenage pregnancy and teenage marriage, as well as encouraging men and boys to participate in promoting the rights of women and girls.
The Noi Ecosystem, on the other hand, is a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder partnership approach launched in 2016 by the UNFPA in collaboration with the Lao government and other stakeholders to raise awareness on teenagers’ issues and increase investments in over 700,000 adolescent girls in Laos.
To push the envelope, Kadyrov said the government has already drafted concrete plans to include comprehensive sexuality education into school curricula nationwide. Population data will be leveraged for policy formulation and the finalization of programs, including the National Population and Development Policy and the National Plan of Action for the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Women.
Investing in life skills and comprehensive sexuality education is seen as vital in delaying marriage and pregnancy until adulthood, allowing young people the time to acquire knowledge and skills that will contribute to social and economic progress, according to Kadyrov.
The journey towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals remains ongoing, with continued efforts aimed at strengthening national maternal health and midwifery programs, expanding comprehensive sexuality education, and scaling up gender-based violence prevention and response.