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“Girlhood Not Motherhood: together we can end teenage pregnancy”

Running in the Vientiane marathon to raise awareness on teenage pregnancy

3 March 2019, Vientiane, Lao PDR – In Vientiane, over 4,000 runners and as many volunteers from across the country showed up at 5.00 AM to run the 4th Vientiane International Half Marathon (VIHM). The Marathon was led by Ministry of Education and Sports, Lao Athletic Federation and Events For Good, with support from many partners including United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Lao PDR.

UNFPA supported the 4th VIHM as part of the celebrations around International Women’s Day, with the aim to raise awareness on teenage pregnancy, “Girlhood Not Motherhood, together we can end teenage pregnancy”.

Why the marathon?

A healthy lifestyle which speaks of resilience and gives access to public space for boys and girls, men and women alike... Participants enter the race for many reasons from a joy of running to improving health, supporting a cause. The first VIHM was held in 2016 with approximately 1,000 runners, in successive years, the number of participants, volunteers, and audiences have increased.

A diverse range of people take part and running a marathon does not divide by gender, background or culture. In order to leave no one behind... the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals, UNFPA is attempting to expand the channels of engagement in Lao PDR, reaching out to those  who may not be as familiar with topics such as teenage pregnancy and how that can be limiting for the future of mother and child.

Why teenage pregnancy?

Lao PDR has the highest proportion of teen pregnancy in ASEAN,  83 live births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years.

1 in 20 adolescent girls have never attended school. As a result, non-school attendant girls are married at early age .

1 in 10 girls aged have given birth to their first child before they are 17 years of age. This leads to increasedrisks to the health of mothers as well as newborns.

1 in 5 adolescent girls aged 15-19 have dropped out of the school.

For young boys and girls, it remains difficult to know where to go for information and services on their sexual reproductive health and well-being.

How can we address these issues?

Knowing the problem is the first step. By supporting VIHM , UNFPA aims to reach more than 4,000 participants with key information and services various media, radio interviews, a social media campaign to engage audience on questions around teenage pregnancy,  variety of games and activities.

Accessing correct information and services is the second step.  Expo days were held on 1st-2nd of March 2019, UNFPA with its partner the Vientiane Youth Clinic set up booths and a mobile clinic to provide information and engage audience around teenage pregnancy issues. “Noi” the Lao adolescent girls’ representative was there to engage the youth.

“Teenage pregnancy creates cycle of inter-generational poverty and disadvantage. Young boys and girls need to know about safe and responsible sexual reproductive health, know where they can access information and quality services. Every girl in Laos should enjoy their girlhood, not motherhood. Every pregnancy should be by choice, not chance! ” Said Ms. Mariam Khan, UNFPA’s Representative in Lao PDR.

For further information:

Ms. Kay amphone, Communications Associate – UNFPA

Tel: (021) 267 680 / E-mail :