The Lao Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) and The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have signed an agreement to strengthen their partnership by furthering their investment in “Noi- The Future of Lao PDR.
The MoES signed their Implementing Partner (IP) Agreement and Annual Work Plan 2017 on March 28 in Vientiane Capital, inked by the Minister of Education and Sports, Ms Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun and the UNFPA representative, Ms Frederika Meijer.
The signing aims to strengthen the partnership and emphasize the importance of addressing the needs of adolescents, in particularly adolescent girls, building on the campaign named “Noi”.
The “Noi” campaign was launched last year on the international girl child day, and it acknowledges the grim reality of adolescent girls according to the latest Population and Housing Census (2015), which shows that 42,000 adolescent girls have never attended school and 91,662 of girls aged 6-16 years have dropped out of school.
Girls out of school tend to marry younger and have children at a younger age. In fact, Lao PDR has the earliest age of marriage in the region; 1 in 10 girls marry by the age of 15 and early marriage is often related to early pregnancy.
Thus, Lao PDR has the highest adolescent birth rate in the region, with an estimated 76 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years.
The newly signed agreement between MoES and UNFPA will particularly focus on issues to keep girls in school and strengthen girls’ social, health and economic assets.
As such, it will support the country to build the human assets needed for graduating from the LDC status as well as in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Indicators by 2030.
Adolescents, in particular girls in rural areas, face more challenging situations to access information and education, said Ms. Sengdeuane.
She said that they need special attention to be able to stay in school, to be empowered so that all girls can develop and strive towards reaching their full potential, and that she hoped that many more partners could support Noi.
This reaffirms the government’s commitment to investing in Noi, as well as the activities with the MoES Sector Plan and priority alignment of the UNFPA.
UNFPA’s sixth country programme (CP6) 2017-2021 has partnerships with different Ministries and particularly focuses on youth and adolescent issues through supporting data analyses, and strengthening and increasing access to reproductive health information and services.
Ms. Meijer said that currently, adolescents and young people are often left out of the dialogue about them and their voices are often not heard.
To change this, there is a need for an enabling policy environment where adolescents and young people are given specific attention and where national development takes their particular needs into account, she added.
She said that investing in girls’ education is crucial for the advancement of women and gender equality, and provides for the best returns on investment.
Under CP6, UNFPA aims for a strengthened partnership with MoES, where MoES takes a leading role in advocating for increased and sustainable investment in adolescent girls.
Source: Lao News Agency