Adolescence is a phase separate from both early childhood and adulthood. It is a transitional period that requires special attention and protection. Physically, children go through a number of transitions while they mature. We now know that the brain undergoes quite substantial developments in early adolescence which affect emotional skills as well as physical and mental abilities.
In Lao PDR, out of a total population of 6.5 million, some 59 per cent are children and young people below the age of 25. They must know their rights and be encouraged to pursue their dreams.
However, they often face a number of issues, ranging from violence and early death from accidents, to suicides, alcohol and substance use, among many more. Adolescent girls are often particularly at risk.
Lao PDR has one of the highest adolescent birth rates in the region, 83 births per 1,000 girls (aged 15-19), with distinct differences between rural and urban areas (136 and 42 births per 1,000 adolescent girls, respectively).
In terms of access to water, sanitation and hygiene, as in many other countries, adolescent girls in Laos, particularly in rural areas, have insufficient access to safe and private facilities for Menstrual Hygiene Management, which makes it difficult for them to manage their menstruation safely, comfortably and with dignity. In addition, in 79% of households without water on the premises, females collect the water. Women and girls of ethnic groups living in mountainous areas bear greater burden.
With regard to education, despite the high net enrolment rate in primary education (98.7%), the survival rate in primary stays low (79.6%). Literacy rates are slightly higher for those in the 15-19 year age group than those in the 20-24 year age group, and the literacy rates of young women aged 15-24 are lower than their male counterparts, 69% and 77%, respectively. Girls from some ethnic communities and lower wealth quintiles are at an educational disadvantage.
The country has the highest percentage of child marriage in East Asia and the Pacific, with 37 per cent of women aged 20 to 49 married by the age of 18. Most of the victims of trafficking, violence and sexual exploitation are girls and adolescents.