Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

My name is Albertina. I am 18 years old. I live in Zambia with my mother, my grandmother and my siblings.

I have been a sponsored child with ChildFund since I was five years old.

When I grew up, I realised I wanted to be involved in activities for young people and so I became a peer educator with ChildFund in 2013.

As a peer educator I hold meetings where I educate people in my community. I talk with and mentor people in my same age group about things like early marriage, early pregnancy, staying in school, etc.

At school, what I saw was bad. It troubled me. The majority of children who were married at my school dropped out in Grade 6. They did not continue to high school.

It hurt to see that. Although you start school at the same time and you started as many, only two or three of you complete your education.

Of all my friends who I started school with, all of them have dropped out of school. They have all married early and started having children. I saw this practice was harmful.

We all have many problems, but when you look at the girls who dropped out and got married, they have more problems.

Children who are married do not get to do the things they desire and accomplish their goals.

I believe that every person has things to be accomplished in their life.

I want to pursue journalism so that I can continue what I’m doing in the community. By working in the media, I’ll be able to reach more people than I can right now.

The Government of the Lao PDR has announced a renewed focus on addressing violence against children, after a national survey showed more than a third of children in the developing country faced some form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Laos Deputy Prime Minister Sonxay Siphanhdone (pictured above with youth who participated in the country’s first children’s forum) last Thursday urged the Lao Government, the public, and the private sector to work together to implement stronger child protection and participation systems.

The government’s renewed focus also comes after an inaugural National Children’s Forum was held in Vientiane in May, which revealed children in Laos lacked opportunities and the resources including online safety and sexual and reproductive health information, to help them identify and reduce the risks of violence.

The three-day forum, facilitated by ChildFund Laos and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, provided a space for 90 children across three provinces to voice their needs and share the key challenges they faced on a variety of issues, including violence and abuse.

The Lao Government’s renewed commitment to addressing violence against children has been applauded by the Australian ambassador to Laos, Jean-Bernard Carrasco.

“I am very proud the Australian Government has been able to support the Lao Government in this process, by contributing funding to the national survey,” he said this week in Vientiane, at an event celebrating International Children’s Day.

“I am pleased to acknowledge that both Australia and Laos have recognised children have the same human rights as adults, but that they also require special protection due to their vulnerability.

“Nowhere is protecting the rights of children more important than in Laos, where it is estimated that over 40 per cent of the population are under the age of 18.”