Provincial information sector commits to raising awareness about child protection risks

Capacity of information sector enhanced to protect children

Somsavanh Ounthavy
Group photo
UNICEF Laos/2020
01 September 2020

3 Aug 2020:  A workshop on the dissemination of information on child protection and COVID-19 for the provincial information sector was successfully organized by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICT) and UNICEF on 27 July 2020 in Luang Prabang Province. The workshop was attended by a total of 30 Government authorities from the information sector in eight northern provinces of Lao PDR.

The purpose of the workshop was to help sub-national Government authorities from MICT  better understand the media’s role in promoting child rights and raise their awareness about child protection risks, which have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. These risks include violence against children, gender-based violence, online protection, increased stress, mental health and psychosocial well-being.

To protect children and their families from such risks, MICT and UNICEF produced seven TV spots, seven radio spots and three public service announcements on child protection and COVID-19 in Lao and other local languages (Hmong and Khmu). These new materials were presented during the workshop and were the product of a close partnership between the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Lao Women’s Union, Lao Youth Union, UNICEF and UNFPA, with generous financial support from UNICEF Australia and USAID.

“As mass media organizations, we need to actively participate in the promotion of child rights, particularly on child protection in the new normal situation and emergencies,” said H.E. Mr. Savankhone Razmountry, Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism.

The Deputy Minister also drew media attention to the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic turning into a child protection crisis if no action is taken quickly by highlighting the rise in cases of violence against children due to financial or mental health problems within families, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“In emergencies like COVID-19, it is our responsibility to disseminate correct information on ways to protect children from the virus. Moreover, we also need to share messages to ensure people feel safe and comfortable during the outbreak or lockdowns,” he further added.

On behalf of UNICEF, Ms. Khamsay Iemsouthi, a Child Protection Specialist, gave a presentation on the key issues faced by children during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as issues relating to mental health, violence, including gender-based violence, sexual abuse and online child protection. “Evidence suggests that people experienced increased stress, domestic violence and financial difficulties due to the pandemic,” explained Ms. Iemsouthi. “During the pandemic, restricted mobility of frontline workers has led to disruptions in service delivery in communities across all sectors. Against this background, MICT’s TV, radio and audio programmes will help us reach a bigger number of populations, including those hard-to-reach,” she added.

A man speaking
UNICEF Laos/2020
Mr. Somkyo Kingsada, Director General of Foreign Relations and Cooperation Department, Lao Youth Union gave a presentation on the importance of mental health and psychosocial support and their hotline systems for psychosocial counselling.

At the workshop, a total of 4,800 USB sticks containing public speaking announcements were officially handed over to MICT. These USBs will be disseminated to 4,800 villages with community loudspeakers to sensitize community members to child rights and protection issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. The TV and radio spots produced have been aired on 18 TV and radio stations since early July 2020.

At the end of the workshop, participants renewed their commitment to actively contribute towards the dissemination of information on child protection and raise public awareness about the importance of investing in child well-being. “UNICEF is pleased to be part of the Government of Lao PDR’s efforts to advocate and support discussions with the media to advance the rights of protection for children, who are at a heightened risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s efforts will one day have a great impact on children and women in the country,” said Mr. Tabongphet Phoutavong, Chief of Communications a.i. of UNICEF Lao PDR.

To continue working closely with media personnel to advance the rights of children during the pandemic, MICT and UNICEF plan to organize a second workshop for the southern and central provinces of Lao PDR in Savannakhet Province by the end of August 2020.

UNICEF is calling on governments to secure investment and take action to support and protect the mental health of children and young people, and to bring an end to violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation of children. Find out more about UNICEF’s agenda for action on the coronavirus.

To view TV spots in Lao, Khmu and Hmong