A workshop to discuss the partnership with the private sector, to promote the accessibility of sexual and reproductive health information and services amongst factory workers was conducted today and co-chaired by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Lao Women’s Union (LWU) Vientiane on Dec 9, with representatives of the Ministry of Health, Lao Youth Union, Lao Trade Union, Lao Front for National Development, and Vientiane Youth Centre (VYC).
The workshop aims to increase investment in the Adolescent and Youth Friendly Service programmes (AYFS) combined with COVID-19 prevention and response, in partnership with the private sector to ensure factory workers are safe, healthy and able to work in the sectors.
Ms Dalavanh Keonakhone, Vice President of Lao Women’s Union, Vientiane said that the LWU Vientiane has been working to ensure that women and girls aged between 15 – 24 years receive essential information and youth-friendly services on SRH through mobile outreach and social media, counseling services via hotline 1361, and 137, continue services at the Vientiane Youth Clinic.
Despite efforts, Ms Dalavanh recognized that challenges remain to make information and services universally accessible by all women, girls and youth. “Many women and girls still do not have access to information and services that can protect them. During the COVID-19 pandemic, female factory workers are among the high-risk group. We must find ways to reach and meet the needs of women and girls with SRH information and services,” she added.
Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative for Lao PDR, acknowledged the resilience of the LWU and VYC to incorporate digital modalities for continuity of SRH services to young people during the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID-19 impact includes increase of unplanned pregnancies and increase in abortions and stillbirths especially among younger women, at the same time MOH data shows the largest clusters of COVID-19 transmission are amongst the young factory workers.” In addressing these issues, Ms. Khan calls for strengthening partnership with private sector “investing in the wellbeing of female workforce by ensuring the availability of quality health information and services, innovative tools as hotline and telehealth, protects the young women, healthy staff in turn protect the factories ability to continue operations and thus facilitates the economic recovery of Lao PDR.”
She added the need, under the leadership of LWU and in partnership with the private sector to increase accessibility of youth friendly information and services including on COVID19 prevention. Youth below the age of 24 are almost half of Laos’s total population, investment and protection of young people can yield a demographic dividend i.e. accelerated economic growth. As COVID-19 has negatively impacted the health and well-being of young people with young women most impacted, as seen through the increased unplanned pregnancies and higher STIs and HIV infections. Young women are the majority workforce in the two critical sectors of Garment and the Tourism sectors. Investing in these young women is an investment in the recovery of the Tourism and Garment sectors.
UNFPA Laos, supports the government to implement national AYFS programs to strengthen the system and quality of youth-friendly service provision for adolescents and young people. The programs have innovated to provide SRH information and services via telehealth, hotlines, and the Noi Yakhoo mobile application to ensure the continuity of services during the pandemic.
Source: Lao News Agency