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Mariam Khan, UNFPA Representative to Lao PDR

International Women’s Day 2022


Flowers and fancy meals are great, but surely, rights and choices deserve more attention ? 


It’s that time of the year again, the one day a year when we celebrate women… a new theme, a new set of celebrations and a mixed bag of progress. Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow is the theme for 2022. 


I know many of you are planning to celebrate a woman/ girl/an LGBTIQ+ community member in your life, here’s a few thoughts to consider: 


Think about her/their rights and choices?  Think about the freedoms men and boys you know enjoy but maybe the women/ girls and LGBTIQ+ do not? Any change you can bring about?  Focus on what is in your control or your influence…


As you reflect, know that Lao PDR has an impressive set of women’s rights enshrined in national law and policy, commensurate with the international commitments the country has made.  Some of these rights, when not met, disproportionately impact women/girls/LGBTIQ+.  These include the right to access reproductive health care as well as mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of individuals. 


The right to quality health care, especially reproductive health care, the right to bodily autonomy, the right to decide if when and whom to marry, if when and how many children to have, especially, the right to live a life free from coercion, harassment and violence - in person and online!  


You may be thinking but …. “what do I know about these rights”, and I am hoping, you are also thinking,  “what can I possibly do about these issues”? 


An easy one to tackle is online behaviour. The world has spent more time online over the past two years and women, girls, young people have disproportionately been impacted by online bullies and harassers.   


So one thing you can do this IWD, is to pay attention to online behaviours and call them out when they offend! Daily actions, daily choice of words, and daily opportunities can accelerate a shift to a more gender equal world, where women, girls LGBTIQ+ community, young people feel safer, and able to express themselves in all spaces and access freely their rights and choices .    


I invite you to find out more by looking up bodyright/UNFPA or #bodyright ! You can protect images of your body online, and you can help others to do so too!


So please, get those flowers, book that dinner table, but also inform yourself and take one new concrete action to promote rights and choices of women/girls/LGBTIQ+ for a more Gender equal world! 


Happy International Women’s Day from me to you! 


Mariam Khan is the UNFPA Representative based in Lao PDR.


UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, with a mission to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.  UNFPA works to ensure a world in which all individuals can exercise their basic human rights, including those that relate to the most intimate and fundamental aspects of life.  


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