Lao Children Call Attention to the Issue of Child Marriage in New Short Film
The Government of Lao PDR, KOICA and UNICEF join hands with Lao children to raise awareness about the impact of and ways to prevent child marriage in Lao PDR through a new short film.
Child marriage is a violation of children’s rights that can have profound physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional impacts.
To improve community awareness about this issue and its prevention in Lao PDR, the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers and Children (NCAWMC) and the Ministry of Education, with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UNICEF through the “Integrated Programme for Climate Resilience and Empowerment in Attapeu Province (IPCREA), developed a short film on the topic.
“The Story of Three Girls” was produced in consultation with children and adolescents in Attapeu. It follows the lives of teenagers Saeng, Koy, and Noi as they face different challenges in their lives related to poverty, unplanned pregnancy, and education. Family pressure and their individual choices would also cause their paths in life to diverge.
“The storyline was developed by secondary school students from Attapeu province themselves. By depicting child marriage realities from the adolescents’ perspective, the video advocates for youth empowerment and better community support for young people to prevent child marriage and early pregnancy,” said Mme. Chongchith Chantharanonh, Deputy Permanent Secretary of NCAWMC.
‘Child Marriage’ or ‘early marriage’ is defined as the marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18. It refers to both formal marriages and informal unions where children under 18 live with a partner as if married. Lao PDR has one of the highest proportions of child marriage and the highest adolescent birth rate (83 per 1,000) in the region. 33 per cent of women aged 20 to 49 married by the age of 18, despite the practice being prohibited by the Family Law and Penal Code (the minimum legal age for marriage is 18). Strong determinants of child marriage include low levels of education, poverty, limited opportunities for adolescents, and social norms and acceptance. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening this situation according to the COVID-19 Impact Assessment Report. From 2020 to 2021, the number of unintended pregnancies in Lao PDR is estimated to have increased by 15 per cent in the best-case scenario, and potentially by up to 24 per cent. Of these cases, 35 per cent are expected to occur among females aged 15–24 years.
“Child marriage can cut off educational opportunities and chances for personal growth. For girls, it will almost certainly mean pregnancy with an increased risk of infant and maternal mortality. Children in early marriage also face a higher risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse,” explained Ms. Young Joo Lee, Child Protection Specialist from UNICEF Lao PDR
“KOICA is dedicated to improving the lives of girls. We hope that this video can be used to reach a wide audience to help everyone understand the impacts of child marriage and take appropriate actions to prevent it,” said Mr. Seongmin Lee, Deputy Country Director of KOICA Office in Lao PDR.
To safeguard children’s rights and improve their well-being and protection, KOICA and UNICEF have also been supporting adolescent life skills training and awareness-raising activities on child protection and prevention of violence, early marriage, and sexual exploitation of children in Attapeu Province since 2019. To date, nearly 5,000 children, young people, caregivers, and community members have engaged in activities related to ending child marriage and early pregnancy.
“The Story of Three Girls” can be viewed on UNICEF Lao PDR social media accounts, Lao National TV channel and social media accounts of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. The video will be used during the adolescent social and life skill training sessions and community awareness-raising sessions in Attapeu province.