“Our voices are very powerful and valuable.”
Saisingkham Itthiphone is proud to be able to represent his peers at the 2022 Lao Children’s Forum, a national event organised by the National Commission for the Advancement of Women and Mothers and Children (NCAWMC), in partnership with Khammouane Provincial Commission for the Advancement of Women and Mothers and Children.
Saisingkham is a youth representative from Luangprabang Province. “I attended the Lao Children’s Forum for the first time in 2019, and this year I was re-selected to represent the province. I am proud to be a part of this forum because the voices of children and young people are heard. I feel that our voices are very powerful and valuable, and that everyone cherishes children’s thoughts,” he said.
The theme of this year’s forum, held on 13 May in Khammouane Province, was ‘Progress in promoting children’s rights in Lao PDR’ and brought together 62 young people from 17 different provinces. Together they researched, discussed and brainstormed solutions to issues that they and their peers face, including early marriage, unsafe use of social media, road accidents and COVID-19.
It was an opportunity for children and young people to come together and learn about how to become active, responsible, and contributing members of their community. The participants walked away with a newfound confidence on how to address the challenges they and their peers face.
“I am a shy child. I’m usually afraid of speaking up and do not think I can change the society that I live in or the things that affect my life. But after attending the Lao Children’s Forum, I felt that everyone is important to the nation and I want all the children to bring their talents to develop society,” he said.
Another attendee from the Xaysomboun Province, Yervang Xiapao, said, “When I heard that I had been chosen to join the Lao Children’s Forum, I thought that this opportunity would allow me to help other children in my community, as there are still many children in my province who do not prioritise their education. By attending the event, I aim to share what I’ve learnt with my friends in my neighborhood.”
“I want the Lao Children’s Forum to be held every year. And, if possible, I would like ChildFund to do an event like this in my province. Because my hometown is in the mountains, there are no organisations that work with children and young people and I really want to be able to participate in more project activities like the other children,” said Yervang.
Before attending the event, youth representatives attended training sessions to build their confidence and develop everyday life skills. These sessions also encouraged them to learn about gender equality, healthcare, leadership skills and important life skills such as how to plan for their future.
The project also hosted local school-based forums in preparation for the National Forum, which will in turn prepare children and youth representatives for the annual ASEAN Children’s Forum later this year.
Unfortunately, the forum could not go ahead in-person in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So instead ChildFund selected 12 representatives of children and adolescents from three provinces, Vientiane Capital, Xieng Khouang and Huaphanh, to participate in the forum as an online event.
ChildFund in Laos is proud to support children and young people from diverse backgrounds to attend the event, including all genders, ethnicities and children and young people from both urban and rural parts of the country.
The Lao Children’s Forum is an annual event held under the Ready for Life program, funded by the Australian Governments Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).