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My Voice, Our Future: Youth Debate Competition

The final round of the youth debate competition was completed announcing the winners from Lao-Vietnam Friendship School 2.

The competition was part of International Day of the Girl Child celebration and the ‘Me, My Body, My Planet, My Future’ Campaign, co-organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Plan International Laos, Population Service International (PSI) in collaboration with the Lao Youth Union (LYU) and Vientiane TV 9.

Eight teams of students representing eight high schools in Vientiane participated in the debate covering topics about gender equality, sexual harassment, unplanned pregnancies, sexuality education, and LGBTQ. Ms. Phetsadaphone Phomavong, Ms. Chansouk Thanomchit, and Ms. Souphalak Malavong from Lao-Vietnam Friendship School 2 won the competition.

Ms. Phetsadphone Phomavong was excited to win the competition, she said, “It was my first time taking part in the debate competition. At first, I felt unconfident and excited to speak out because my schoolmates have joined many Debate competition activities before. Nonetheless, I believe that this is my great opportunity to embrace and learn from it. For example, I have learnt such lessons from teammates from this debate. Moreover, I have acquired soft skills such as Time Management, Teamwork, self-motivation and critical thinking, so it brought me to the final round. I am sure that my team will be a champion.”

The first runner up goes to the team from Lao-Vietnam Friendship School 1: Mr. Panaka Thamavong, Ms. Fon Douangmala , Mr. Billgate Phomasone, and Ms. Padaphone Ardvaly.

“I am ecstatic and exhilarated to join the third season Debate competition, there are three people in my group and we have been working hard together to find the sources from INGOs social media platforms, one of them was Plan International and other related they helped us so much. What I could learn from this activity; critical thinking, emotional control, concentration and public speaking development for instance. I hope these experiences could help me to be a Professional Debater and boost me to participate next season,” said Mr. Panaka Thammavong.

“The Debate creates opportunities for young people to gain gradually experience by themselves by studying the complexities and diversities of society that is a part of leadership skills,” said Mr. Somkiao Kingsada, Director of Department of International Cooperation, Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union

Mr. Sengsantisith Sanasisane, the Interim Country Director and Deputy Country Director, Plan International Laos, said: “Today, the internet facilitates everything, especially children and young people who often surf the online world to seek information, share thoughts and communicate with others. On the other hand, The Truth Gap, the new report by Plan International, has revealed that online lies leave one in five girls (20% of over 26,000 girls and young women from 26 countries) feeling physically unsafe and exposed to lies and mistruths are having a profound impact on how they engage with issues ranging from COVID-19 to politics.”

He further added, “the truth is crucial for girls to make safe decisions and to have power and control over their lives. But right now, girls don’t know what to believe, who to trust and where to find the truth. We need to equip girls and all children for an increasingly digital world. That’s why we provide safe space for children and adolescent people to share and express ideas and thoughts about their bodies, their rights, and calls for freedom to be online.”

Ms Saysana Phanalasy, Acting Country Director of PSI Laos said, “We are extremely proud of the Lao youth participants for their skills in acting and short film production which were used in a positive way to shed light on the topic of reproductive health, prevention of unsafe abortions, family planning and the right to access services. In addition, the WHP team and the Communication team have been working with many parties to participate in a variety of important activities, including the prevention and control of COVID-19”.

The “Me, My Body, My Planet, My Future” campaign was launched in 2019 in collaboration with the government and partners to engage youth to take actions for the Sustainable Development Goals. Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative for Lao PDR, said, “Guided by the Noi Framework and the Noi Ecosystem, we work with youth to ensure that every young person leads an informed, healthy life and can fulfill their potential. These young participants are raising issues of daily concern to adolescents and youth. Their voices and actions are critical to Lao’s sustainable development. With the government and partners, UNFPA will continue to provide platforms and safe spaces for youth to claim their rights!”

Source: Lao News Agency