LAOS: Onsy, an out-of-school girl, who fights for her dream
Meet Onsy, a 17-year-old girl who lives in the northern part of Laos, where was reported to have high rates of young mothers and out-of-school girls. When Onsy was 12, she had to drop out of school due to aneconomic issue in her family. She had highlikelihood for early marriage, but her fortune of wheel changed by joining the out-of-school life skill training conducted by Save the Children International in Lao through the Preventing and Responding to Child, Early and Forced Marriage project.
Her life during the period of not going to school was tough because she had to go to the paddy field to do all the work since her parents were old. She recalled her memory: "I worked hard every day in the paddy field. My family was poor, and I feared to be forced to get married early like my sisters. It was the most difficult time for me".
In 2022, the project was implemented in her village, and Onsy was one of 800 young adolescents who participated in life skill training for young mothers and out-of-school girls. Save the Children provided ongoing support to the Lao Women's Union to roll out the training at the community level to help girls become aware of and exercise their rights and know economic opportunities and alternative social roles. Participating in the training made Onsy's life change a lot, such as improving her life skills for her financial security, empowering her in decision-making, knowing how to negotiate with her parents, and most importantly, making her more aware of the negative impacts of early marriage.
After completing the life skill training and the cooking class as her technical training choice, Onsy was very enthusiastic to start earning money by applying the lessons from the training in cooking and selling rice noodles in her village. It was a big success for her because nobody had done it before. "Within three days, I sold more than 2 Kg of noodles, and the result was that I had earned money without working hard in the field and having to go looking for forest products to sell like before". Onsy said.
The economic literacy and financial management trainingmadeOnsyfeel more confident with her business plan. She was one of the 120 most vulnerable adolescents who had received grants linked to technical support to set up their income-generation activities. With the grant, Onsy built a proper place to sell her noodles this year. She also highlighted, "If girls like us can earn money to take care of ourselves, we don't need to get married at a young age to get financial support from a spouse". The project has not only benefited Onsy, but also her sisters. They are early marriage-affected women who have no vocational skills. By supporting Onsy in selling noodles, they can help family generate more income and save money for their children. They also learned some valuable skills from Onsy, like financial management skills.
According to Lao Social Indicator Survey II(1) and Girls not Brides (2),33% of Lao girls are married before their 18th birthday, and 7% are married before the age of 15. Generously supported by Save the Children Hong Kong, Save the Children International in Laos works closely with the government of Laos to respond to early marriage issues. We aim to protect the high potential girls and adolescents like Onsyfrom Child, Early and ForcedMarriage and help them achieve their full potential in all aspects of life.
(1) https://www.dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR356/FR356.pdf - Lao Social Indicator Survey 2018
(2) https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/learning-resources/child-marriage-atlas/regions-and-countries/laos/ - Lao Children Marriage Rates, Girls Not Bride