Lao Children and Youths Make their Voices Heard on Child Rights

The Government of Lao PDR and UNICEF concluded a series of child rights consultations with children and youth across the country for the preparation of the 7th State Report on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Khamsay Iemsouthi and Karen Ho
Children writing
©UNICEF Laos 2022
05 May 2022

Every child has a right to express their views.

To prepare for the 7th periodic State Report on implementing the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its two Optional Protocols, the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers – Children (NCAWMC) with support from UNICEF has been carrying out a series of children and youth consultations across Lao PDR after its launch of the reporting process in 2021.

The CRC state reporting process provides an opportunity for the Government to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the implementation of the recommendations from the Committee of the Rights of the Child to Lao PDR for its 3rd – 6th periodic State Reports. Consultations with young people are crucial in understanding the circumstances and challenges affecting their lives from their perspectives.

From February to May 2022, a total of 140 children and youths (65 female and 75 male) aged 10-27 participated in five consultation sessions in Attapeu, Savannakhet, Luang Prabang, Sekong and Khammouan provinces. The meeting gathered children and youths from different groups, including in-school children, out-of-school children, children from ethnic groups, child victims of violence and trafficking, children affected by the disaters and children without parental care. In Luang Prabang province, 20 children (5 female and 15 male) living in temples and SOS village boarding schools participated in the CRC consultation session for the first time. The consultation sessions in Attapeu, Savannakhet, and Luang Prabang were supported by UNICEF.

“I’m happy to have a chance to participate in this important event. It is good that our voices are heard by the adults and being considered for inclusion in the CRC report,” stated Alex Oudomsouk, a 14 years old child novice. He also enjoyed learning more about children’s rights and the CRC reporting process during the meetings.

Group photo
©NCAWMC 2022
Children at the CRC consultation session in Attapeu province

Particularly for child novices, nutrition was one of the main challenges raised by the novices. Dependence on food donations, low awareness, and limited access to nutritious foods were cited as common setbacks in achieving balanced diets. Despite existing rules and teaching in place, youth representatives reported that they have witnessed violent behaviors among children in schools and communities. Child marriage and early pregnancy were reported to be more common among children who dropped out of school or are unemployed, as they often have limited bargaining power and knowledge of contraceptive use. While most children are aware of the negative impacts of substance use, drug abuse remains an issue due to curiosity and limited knowledge of drug types and effects.

During their presentations, youth representatives proposed solutions to these challenges. Some recommendations include increasing information dissemination and training on child protection issues for children and young adults, strengthening reporting mechanisms for violence and exploitation cases, and improving support services such as counselling for children in need.

“Child participation is one of the core principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC consultations provide a platform for children with different backgrounds to freely express their views about issues concerning them and participate in such decision-making processes. Their inputs can help the Government develop inclusive programmes and policies that support every child in reaching their full potential,”

Mme. Chongchith Chantharanonh, Deputy Permanent Secretary of NCAWMC.
Group photo
©UNICEF Laos 2022
Children presenting on their issues of concerns in Luang Prabang province.

The government also has a regular platform for child participation. A good example is the recently organized Lao Children's Forum 2022 from 10 to 13 May 2022, which brought together 62 child representatives from across the country. They shared and discussed key challenges faced by children and young people in the country, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic accidents, social media, and early marriage.

“Upholding child right to participation is particularly important amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We must ensure that children’s needs and perspectives are taken into account in response and recovery efforts as they are the cornerstone of a sustainable and resilient post-pandemic world. In this regard, UNICEF is proud to partner with the Lao Government and children for the CRC report as we reimagine a better future for every child in Lao PDR,” explained Ms. Khamsay Iemsouthi, Child Protection Specialist from UNICEF Lao PDR.

Moving forward, the voice of children and youths will be summarized in a report which will be presented at the national consultation meeting in June 2022. The 7th periodic State Report on implementing the CRC and its two Optional Protocols will be finalized and submitted to the Committee of the Rights of the Child by June 2023.