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Savannakhet, 30 August 2013 - The Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other government partners celebrated the International Youth Day 2013 at the Teacher's Training Institute in Savannakhet Province.At least 1200 young people attended the event.

The event included dance, music and drama performances by artists such as the popular singer Aluna, the dance groups Hoppin and Fang Lao and the drama group TK as well as local artists.

In Laos, the International Youth Day was celebrated on August 30 with a focus on how the Youth, in particular girls, can be a driving force for development in the country.

"The Youth are shaping the country's present and future. The opportunities and choices young people make during adolescence will enable them to begin adulthood as empowered, active citizens. But, this is only if all of us can help them make those choices and give them a chance to grow up as responsible human beings" said Ms. Sally Sakulku, Sexual and Reproductive Health Coordinator from UNFPA.

"More than ever, we need to put young people on the agenda of national development, in particular, the National Socio-Economic Plan. The health and overall well-being of young people, including hearing their voice, will be a major factor in achieving not only the national goal of graduating from the Least Developed Country status by 2020, but also a key force supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals" said Mr. Thongpiew Boutsady, Assistant Minister of MoES.

In the past decades, the Government of Laos has made significant progress in improving young people's lives. Education inequities between boys and girls have reduced significantly; employment creation for the youth has been boosted and health services provision including reproductive health have seen enhancement.

Despite this progress, Lao PDR is still facing a number of challenges. The recent Lao Social Indicator Survey indicates the country has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the region. For every 1,000 girls aged 15-19, there are 94 births. About 4 out of 10 women are either mothers or are pregnant with their first child by the age of 19. 23% of these married young women would like to plan and space their births, but cannot do it because they lack access to family planning information and services which puts them in a higher risk of dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. 
As mentioned during the event, sustainable economic growth and development for the country will require appropriate investment in youth, especially in the areas of employment, entrepreneurship, political inclusion, citizenship and protection of rights, and education. To do this, young people need to be healthy physically, mentally and socially, as a whole. This means access to information, services for all these including sexual reproductive health.

International Youth Day is marked globally on August 12 each year. It was designated by the United Nations in 1999 and it is meant as an opportunity for governments and others development partners to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. Concerts, workshops, cultural events, and meetings involving national and local government officials and youth organizations take place around the world in honour of International Youth Day.

For further information: 
Mr. Diego De La Rosa. Advocacy and Communications Officer. UNFPA. Tel: (021) 315547. Mobile: (020) 59936509. E-mail :