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Laos showcases achievements in advancing women’s and girls’ rights at global conference

Laos has renewed its commitment to advancing gender equality and protecting the rights of women and girls in Laos, at the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women of the UN Economic and Social Council in New York, USA.

Mrs Aly Vongnorbountham speaks at the global conference in New York.

Laos was represented by the President of the Lao Women’s Union (LWU) and Vice Standing President of the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers and Children (NCAMWC), Mrs Aly Vongnorbountham.
“The Government of the Lao PDR is unwavering in its commitment to accelerating the elimination of child marriage and ensuring a brighter future for all girls and women,” Mrs Aly said in a statement read to other delegates.
“By strengthening governance, investing in education and empowerment, and mobilising communities to challenge harmful norms and practices, we strive for a future where every girl can fulfill her full potential and contribute meaningfully to our nation’s development.”
Despite efforts to address challenges in recent years, Laos continues to report the highest rates of child marriage and adolescent pregnancy in the ASEAN region.
Recent Lao Social Indicator Survey data indicates that although there has been a slight decrease in the percentage of young women married or in union before the age of 18, from 32.7 percent in 2017 to 30.5 percent in 2023, the percentage of adolescent girls currently married or in union has increased from 23.5 percent to 26.6 percent.
Furthermore, the adolescent birth rate has risen from 83 to 89 per 1,000 girls. These statistics underscore the urgent need for concerted action to reverse these trends.
Mrs Aly voiced the Lao Women’s Union’s and the NCAMWC’s eagerness to deepen its partnership with partners such as UNFPA and UNICEF, focusing on the eradication of child marriage and adolescent pregnancy as a pathway to empowering girls and women.
She also highlighted the importance of an ongoing national study on the drivers of child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, which will be pivotal in developing evidence-based and context-specific strategies for eliminating child marriage in Laos.
UNFPA Representative Dr Bakhtiyor Kadyrov said “UNFPA Lao PDR is pleased to see emphasis on legal reforms and initiatives to improve gender equality budgeting, women’s empowerment, and to implement legal and policy frameworks related to gender equality and combating violence against women and girls. Investing in women’s and girls’ life skills and expanding life-saving support to survivors of violence will drive the country towards achieving the SDG 5 goals by 2030.”
Mrs Aly’s statement also highlighted the fact that over the past decade, Laos has seen a significant reduction in acceptance of domestic violence, with only 13 percent of women and 11 percent of men still holding these harmful beliefs in 2023, down from nearly 60 percent and 50 percent respectively in 2012, according to the Lao Social Indicator Survey.
The Lao government, in collaboration with UNFPA and UNICEF, has established strategic frameworks to end violence against women and girls by 2030.
During the meeting, the governments of Laos and Vietnam, with support from UNFPA, highlighted their successful collaboration in combating violence against women and girls through a virtual side event.
Participants from various countries were introduced to the innovative “no wrong door” approach, designed to ensure that survivors of violence receive the help they need without facing barriers. This initiative is part of the Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence and includes the adoption of Standard Operating Procedures that outline vital services for affected women and girls.
The delegation also met with high level representatives of UNICEF at their New York headquarters to share updates on the progress achieved by the Lao government on addressing child marriage, including the amendment of the Family Law in 2020 and the strategic emphasis placed on this issue in the National Plan of Action for Lao Youth and Adolescent Development and Lao Women’s Union Strategy (2021-2030).
Representative to UNICEF Lao PDR  Dr Pia Rebello Britto said “Inspired by a vision of a brighter future for every girl in Laos, UNICEF is joining forces with the Lao government and partners to confront child marriage and adolescent pregnancy head on.” “By harnessing data-driven insights and encouraging positive parenting, we’re not just facing challenges but turning them into opportunities for change. With the support of our global network, we’re bringing innovative solutions to the forefront of Laos’ efforts, ensuring that every step we take is a step towards empowerment and equality for girls and women in the community.”
The Lao delegation also attended the Ministerial Roundtable on the priority theme, attended by vice ministers from 119 countries, emphasising Laos’ efforts to implement the National Socio-Economic Development Plan, establish a Poverty Alleviation Fund and SME Development Fund, provide low-interest loans, counselling, and financial services for women entrepreneurs, and establish group funds at provincial and village levels to increase women’s participation in the economy.
The delegation also attended various side events on gender equality and poverty reduction for women and girls, including bilateral meetings with UN agencies and other organisations.

By Times Reporters
 (Latest Update April 3, 2024)

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