Empowering Lao Adolescent Girls By Implementing Noi Ecosystem

(KPL) Investing in health, well-being and empowerment of adolescents, especially adolescent girls, is a smart investment as it yields significant economic and social returns and helps in achieving sustainable socio-economic development.

Empowering adolescent girls requires comprehensive efforts and a conducive environment as adolescent girls are not a homogeneous group and they face a wider range of risks to their health and well-being including lack of education, gender-based discrimination and violence, malnourishment, sexual exploitation, early child and forced marriage and adolescent pregnancy.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Government of the Lao PDR and other stakeholders launched the Noi approach in 2016 to raise awareness on adolescent issues and increase investments in over 700,000 adolescent girls in the Lao PDR through multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Since then, UNFPA and partners are working to implement Noi ecosystem with interlinked component focusing on strengthening supply side systems as well as improving the voice and awareness on the demand side.

As part of the Noi ecosystem efforts for strengthening policy and legal environment, support was provided to the Lao Youth Union to develop the first ever national youth and adolescent policy.

The draft policy has been finalized and awaiting final approval. Support was also extended for revising the national population and development policy, national sexual and reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health policy as well as for developing national youth law and national gender equity law.

Comprehensive sexuality education has been introduced in primary, secondary and technical and vocational education.

Total 110 teachers from all 5 districts of Bokeo province were trained and they are delivering comprehensive sexuality education to 25,000 students in 45 secondary schools.

The comprehensive sexuality education curriculum covers topics on gender, life skills, relationship, child rights, sexual reproductive health, contraception and prevention of substance misuse integrating them with the subjects of civic education, biology and safe use of social media.

Thirty teachers from Bokeo TVET college were trained who are delivering comprehensive sexuality education to 900 students.

The revised primary curriculum with integrated life skills topics will cover around 400,000 primary students in coming years.

In order to improve the provision of adolescents and youth friendly health services, 290 healthcare providers from Bokeo, Savannakhet and Bolikhamxai provinces have been trained. These healthcare providers are providing reproductive health information and services to around 435,000 adolescents and young people.

Additionally, 187 employees from 4 factories and 52 peer educators were trained on reproductive and sexual health which resulted in 426 factory workers accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

Over 8,000 adolescents and young people participated in outreach activities by the trained healthcare providers.

Six hundred adolescent girls from 29 villages in Xepone and Pha-oudom districts of Savannakhet and Bokeo provinces enhanced their health, social, economic and cognitive skills through 60 mentors in Nang-Noi Girls Groups.

Over 6,000 parents and adolescent boys were also sensitized on reproductive and sexual health and rights of adolescent girls trough village level awareness campaigns and participatory activities.

Two women friendly spaces established in temporary shelters in Sanamxay district of Attapeu province provided essential services to 2,000 people affected by the natural disaster.

Fifty representatives from health, social, police and justice sectors came together in Vientiane and discussed about adapting the essential service package in Lao context for improving the quality of health, social and justice services for victims and survivors of various forms of violence.

A situation analysis was conducted in 5 districts of Savannakhet province namely, Xepon, Nong, Vilaboury, Phin and Thapangthong to understand the ground realities faced by adolescent girls and boys.

Adolescent research day was organized in Vientiane which brought 200 researchers and practitioners to discuss about the status of gender equality among adolescents and way forward for addressing gender disparities among adolescent boys and girls.

Adolescent girls working group with 28 members from UN agencies, iNGOs, and CSOs continued joint advocacy through meetings and organizing advocacy events on the occasions of international day of the girl child and international youth day.

Three new partnerships are started with Sinouk Coffee, Banque Franco-Lao and China Radio International to raise awareness and encourage more investment on reproductive and sexual health, financial literacy and empowerment of adolescent girls.

A new campaign ‘Me, My Body, My Planet, My Future’ was initiated to encourage adolescent and youth to take actions on advancing the sustainable development goals regarding their own health, and well-being, climate change, and gender equality.

Over 9,000 adolescents and young people have been engaged through this campaign.

The interlinked interventions of Noi ecosystem are receiving significant support from the government and other stakeholders. The initial results of these comprehensive efforts are very encouraging. We need to further intensify these efforts and scale-up for ensuring the coverage of all adolescent girls and boys in the country.

The right of women to decide if, when and how many children to have and with whom was recognized by the ICPD PoA (International conference on population and development and it’s Programme of Action) in 1994 and 179 governments endorsed it.

ICPD touches the most intimate decisions in the lives of women and couples and links their right to autonomy over their bodies with broader development in the community and country.

Don’t you think it should be known by more people? We at UNFPA and our partners do! This year we celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Source: Lao News Agency