Ending Violence against Children in Laos: A 2015 International Children’s Day Celebration
LUANGPRABANG, 10 June 2015 - Pethavy, an 11-year-old 6 grader at Luangprabang province in Laos, won several prizes in various fun and educational games during the celebration of the international children’s day in Luangprabang province this past week. “I played jigsaw and science Q&A games. I won notebooks, a t-shirt, pens, pencils, and a book entitled My Rights.”
Caption: Phethavy (left) receives his prize for winning a science quiz game.
On June 5th, 2015, Save the Children in Laos was invited by the National Commission for Mothers and Children (NCMC) to join the international children’s day celebration that coincides with the Lao National Arbor Day in both Vientiane Capital and Luangprabang Province.
This year’s celebration focuses on a child’s right to protection. Particularly, ending violence against children is the central theme for this year. Therefore, several games and activities that our field office designed in collaboration with our youth group delivered a central message on ending violence against children in school and at home. For example, our youth volunteers performed a tear-jerking drama show of a malevolent Step Mother and Step Brother exploiting and beating a step child/sister (Bounlai) whose biological mother passed away a short while ago. Luckily, the Father finally realized the hatred and violence that the step mother and brother have towards Bounlai and promised to protect Bounlai from violence and keep her safe from all forms of violence.
Caption: Bounlai (Left) is being verbally abused by Step Brother (middle) and Friend (Right).
Caption: Xaixana asked Children to raise their hands to answer a child-right question.
Some parents attending the event expressed that there’s a connection among parents’ violence against children, a lack of awareness about the laws, and a lack of understanding their children. Ms. Pany, Phethavy’s mother, stated, “Some families who don’t understand their children and the laws still relieve their stress with violence towards their children.”
Xaixana our former youth volunteer leader and a current Child Protection Program Assistant, reflected that violence against children in rural remote areas still persist, “In rural remote areas, parents are beating them [children], or others are cursing and shouting at them. This makes them scared and question ‘Why am I getting hit?’ ‘Why did this happen to me?”
A drama performance as described above is an effective way of communicating a message, particularly in events such as this children’s day celebration where decision makers, parents, and other stakeholders alike attended.
Besides watching an entertaining drama performance that brought both tears and laughter to the event, almost 100 children between 7 to 13 years old actively participated in our Save the Children’s activities such as singing a child right song, answering child right questions and questions about violence, drawing and painting, dancing, and so on. Our Child Protection (CP) and Child Rights Governance (CRG) programs led these activities with active participation from members of the youth group in Luangprabang province and financial support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australia (DFAT). Click here to see the highlights in both Luangprabang and Vientiane.
These activities offer children an opportunity to learn about their four basic rights: to develop, to participate, to survive, and to be protected. Understanding these basic rights, “children will be more confident in expressing themselves and showing their capacity to the adults; and thus adults are able to change their behaviors, especially with regards to child abuse,” stated Saysamone, Child Right Governance Program Manager at Save the Children in Laos.
This is certainly reflected in Phethavy’s experience when his mother Pany shared, “The other day, his [Phethavy’s] father shouted at him because he is about to go out to play football. However, he told his dad, ‘Please do not shout at me. They said it's emotional violence.’ And, his dad told me while laughing, ‘Oh! Now he really knows his rights.’”
Save the Children, with government partners, children, and youths, seeks to initiate sustainable behaviour change amongst parents, teachers, community leaders, children, and young people themselves to protect rural and urban children from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence.
Caption: Parents, teachers, youth members, and decision makers gathered in the main Souphanouvong University Hall to celebrate the international children’s day.
Author & Photographer: Sankerdas Latthanhot, Communications Manager - Save the Children in Lao PDR.