Lao Children’s Forum 2022, the national capacity-building forum for children and adolescents can discuss and contribute to sustainable development
The Lao Children’s Forum 2022 is a national forum organized by The National Commission for the Advancement of Women and Mothers-Children (NCAWMC) in collaboration with the Khammouane Provincial Commission for the Advancement of Women and Mothers-Children under budget support by ChildFund in Laos. The forum was designed to build the capacity of Lao children and create opportunities to reach their potential as active and responsible citizens who can confidently and safely participate in the decision-making process to address the development of Lao children of all ethnic groups across the country. The 4th Lao Children’s Forum 2022 was officially held on 13 May 2022, in Thakhek District, Khammouane Province under the topic “Progress in promoting children’s rights in Lao PDR”.
Of notable attendance were Mrs. Chansoda Phonethip, Vice President of Lao Women’s Union; Mr. Keo-Oudone Bouthsingkhone, Vice Governor of Khammouane Province, President of Khammouane Provincial Commission for the Advancement of Women and Mothers-Children; Ms. Bounmy Souvannalath, Senior Program Officer Education, Australian Embassy; and Mr. Vilasai Thammavong, Acting Country Director of ChildFund in Laos.
Mr. Keo-Oudone Bouthsingkhone, Vice Governor of Khammouane Province, President of Khammouane Provincial Commission for the Advancement of Women and Mothers-Children, said at the ceremony: “The Lao Children’s Forum is a national platform where children and young people are involved and put the skills they have learned into practice and setting up this platform is to build our human resources, especially the leadership skill, developing macro concepts in analyzing the causes of problems and solving problems starting from the children themselves; At the same time, it is an opportunity for children to show their talents to the stage, along with fulfilling their role of preserving good culture to prepare for the selection of Lao children to participate in the ASEAN Children’s Forum.”
The 4th Lao Children’s Forum was opened by Mrs. Chansoda Phonethip, Vice President of Lao Women’s Union, vice president of The National Commission for the Advancement of Women and Mothers-Children (NCAWMC): “The Government of Lao PDR always pays attention to and sees the importance of protecting and developing children as children because children are the future of the nation. Today’s children will become adults in the future and will decide the fate of the nation, as well as the well-being and prosperity of the Lao people, and of the nation. Recognizing the importance of this, every year NCAWMC, in collaboration with ChildFund in Laos, organized the Lao Children’s Forum to be the only platform in the country for children from all over the country to gather and voice ideas that have an impact and interest in their daily lives. Including the emphasis on fostering friendship and mutual respect between child cultures together and enhancing future leadership skills.”
The Lao Children’s Forum is an annual activity of ChildFund in Laos’ Child and Youth Participation for Resilience in Laos (CPR) Phase II Project, also known as Ready for Life, a project funded by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
Ms. Bounmy Souvannalath, Senior Program Officer Education, Australian Embassy, said: “I’m glad to know that the program encourages all young people to learn about empowerment, health care, leadership and life skills, which are skills and activities that are very important to the development of our concept of developing and growing into quality adults. Congratulations to the participants and I hope you will learn new experiences from the activities of the past few days and take that knowledge to the next level to help children and young people in your own villages, districts and provinces. As a donor, we are proud to promote such a great project to promote the participation and empowerment of children and adolescents in Lao PDR. I would like to thank the Government of Lao PDR and its partners for the cooperation and encouragement of the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, and Mother-Child (NCAWMC), which has always paid attention to and supported such programs.”
Prior to the event, children and youth leaders were trained on necessary life skills to navigate their everyday lives, including building their confidence to express themselves, think critically, contribute ideas, and create child development plans to move towards sustainable development under ChildFund in Laos’ Ready for life project in collaboration with NCAWMC. The project also encourages children and adolescents to learn about gender equality, healthcare, leadership skills and important life skills such as how to plan for their future.
The project also hosted local-school-based forums in preparation for the National Forum, which will in turn prepare children and youth representatives for the annual ASEAN Children’s forum.
“One of the fundamental principles of the rights of the child is to promote non-discriminatory participation. At this Children’s Forum, we are very proud to encourage children from diverse backgrounds to participate, with child representatives from all 17 Provinces and Vientiane Capital, these children representing girls, boys and LGBTQI. In addition, there are children from different ethnic groups, children in urban and rural areas, and children with disabilities. Promoting Indiscriminate Participation is also one of the priority activities of ChildFund in Laos. This year, the ASEAN Children’s Forum will be held in Indonesia, and Lao PDR will also host the ASEAN Children’s Forum in 2024,” said Vilasai Thammavong, Acting Country Director of ChildFund in Laos.
The 1st and 2nd Lao Children’s Forums were held in Vientiane in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The 3rd Lao Children’s Forum was held in Huaphanh Province in 2020. The project could not be held in 2021 due to the outbreak of Covid-19. However, ChildFund in Laos selected 12 representatives of children and adolescents from three provinces: Vientiane Capital, Xieng Khouang and Huaphanh to participate in the ASEAN Children’s Forum hosted by Cambodia through an online event.
A total of 62 students from 17 provinces and Vientiane Capital jointly researched the critical issues that children are currently facing in Lao PDR: 1. Early marriage; 2. Unsafe use of social media; 3. Road accidents; And 4. Outbreaks of Covid-19. In addition, children and adolescents engaged in joint activities to analyze the problems and finding solutions as a group. Other activities included performing arts, theater performances, drawing community diagrams, being the master of ceremony, creating and editing videos, and writing proposals for small-scale project grants that they will be responsible for implementing.
“I am a shy child, I’m usually afraid of speaking up and do not think I can change the society that I live in or the things that affect my life. But after attending the Lao Children’s Forum, I felt that everyone is important to the nation and I want all the children to bring their talents to develop the society in which they live in.,” said Mr. Saisingkham Itthiphone, a child representative from Luangprabang Province.
A representative from Xaysomboun Province who attended the Lao Children’s Forum for the first time, Ms. Yervang Xiapao, said: “What impressed me the most about participating in the Lao Children’s Forum this time was the friendship between friends, no bullying, we just helping each other, we analyze the problem together, we share the ideas/information, all the children are friendly, and the leaders and coaches are attentive. ChildFund in Laos is very kind and I would like to thank to the organization that organized the Lao Children’s Forum for all the children and adolescents to participate.”