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My name is Phongsavanh. This is my message to world leaders.

A teen from a small village in Laos travelled to New York to tell world leaders what children and young people in his country had to say about children’s rights, the challenges they face in the modern world, and their vision for the future.

My name is Phongsavanh (pictured above, far right). I am 15 years old and from Houaphanh Province in northern Laos.

I am part of ChildFund Laos’ Ready for Life project, which is helping to empower young people to become confident and active participants and drivers of change in their communities.

As part of ChildFund’s project I have learnt new life skills and I have learnt about my rights. Every Wednesday afternoon I work with children and teachers to lead sessions about children’s rights in my community.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognises the right of all children to be heard, and to participate in decisions affecting our lives. ChildFund is making sure this right is recognised and upheld in Laos through projects such as Ready for Life.

“By 2030, I want all children to have access to a quality education” – Phongsavanh speaking in New York.

With the support of ChildFund Laos, I took part in an event in May 2019 where children were consulted on the progress of the CRC. I attended the event as a representative of children in my province. The consultation was held in Vientiane, Laos’ capital, and allowed children and young people from all over Laos to discuss what was needed to overcome the challenges that had prevented children’s rights from being fully realised.

In August 2019, ChildFund Laos supported me to participate in the Lao Children’s Forum, which involved children speaking out about the issues affecting them in their communities. A key issue that came up was violence against children.

I was then selected to represent children in my country at an international event celebrating the 30th anniversary of the CRC on 20 November 2019 – World Children’s Day. ChildFund Laos supported me on the trip to the United Nations’ headquarters in New York for the event.

I was very proud and happy to be one of the representatives attending the event and World Children’s Day celebrations in New York. It was the biggest opportunity I’ve had to experience new things, and to build my skills and confidence. Over a few days I learnt from many adults and children from all around the world. They inspired me to continue improving myself.

I was very excited but also nervous about delivering my speech during the event. In my speech I spoke about the vision of children in Laos, and the challenges we face in our communities. I also spoke about what children in Laos believed were the solutions to overcoming these challenges.

Our challenges

In Laos, children have limited opportunities to access online learning resources and technologies, and have limited access to quality healthcare. There are also not enough platforms where we can share our opinions. The risk of experiencing cyberbullying and other forms of online abuse are also challenges for children today.

My vision

By 2030, I want all children to have access to a quality education. I want improved maternal and child healthcare, and better nutrition for children, and I want children to be able to access appropriate platforms to learn and exchange their knowledge and their skills.

I also want communities to be well prepared for the effects of climate change. We need to promote the 3Rs (Reuse, Reduce and Recycle) in our communities so we can reduce the impact.

In addition, I want children in Laos to be able to access to digital devices and the digital world, but we also need to know how to use the internet safely.

My aspiration is to make sure all children in my country know their rights. I want to encourage them to develop their knowledge and skills as much as possible so they can have a good future.

My message for leaders is: help us be better.

My message to children is: keep learning and improving yourself, and you will have a better life.

ChildFund would like to acknowledge the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

The 30th anniversary of the CRC celebrations in New York was an inspirational experience for Phongsavanh.

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