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Project report

Create safer communities in Laos Lao PDR , RUN BY: Save The Children Australia | STATUS: COMPLETED

This project is 100% Funded



AUD 20,002

Raised from 5,889 people

Project background

In a situational analysis conducted by Save the Children in 2018, Early marriage was cited as a key issue, with Laos PDR considered to have the highest percentage of early marriage in East Asia and the Pacific. National Data also shows that 41.8% of girls aged 15-17 are currently out of school and 23.5% of girls aged 15-19 are currently married.

A key driver of early childhood marriage in Laos ethnic groups is cultural norms and traditions. In 2018, 94% of Hmong, 61% of Khmu, and 52% of Lao participants said that girls should marry between the ages of 12 and 17. Of  respondents, 25% said women should marry between ages 12-14. Trafficking (for labour and sexual exploitation) and prostitution  were cited by Key Informants as significant issues in the target communities with well-established networks in existence that pose considerable threats to VYAs.

This project was part of the Safe in My Community program, which focuses on improving resilience of very young adolescents (VYAs) aged 10-14 years old and ensuring that they develop in safe and supportive communities.

The aim of the project is to reduce risk factors and enhance the protective factors that adolescents need to avoid risky behaviour, to resist all forms of violence, including gender-based violence, and to recuperate and grow following episodes of violence, trauma and poverty that disproportionately affect ethnic minority boys and girls. Safe in my Community also works with VYAs, parents and communities to reduce and reject harmful practices, such as early marriage, sexual exploitation, or unsafe migration, that impact adolescent well-being.

Project outcomes

With the $20,000 investment from Footprints, Save the Children were able to deliver the 'Friendship Circles' part of the program to 215 young people.

'Friendship Circles' are safe-space meetings for VYAs through non­ formal learning/peer-support learn to build resilience and challenge discriminatory social-norms that drive harmful practices. These friendship circles promote behavioural changes based on greater understanding of gender norms and gender equality. Topics tackled in the curricula include self-awareness, communication, decision-making, inter-personal relations, gender equality, challenging gender norms, understanding the early-marriage consequences.

Friendship Circle activities included:

  • Awareness Building- The harmful effects of early marriage and how to protect yourself
  • Improving Connection to Services - 32 service providers presented their roles and responsibilities and how their services can be reached if the young people need help and support.
  • Community Action Plans -8 plans for long term change were developed and the young people presented them to parents and the community.


Requesting parents to engage in trainings on positive parenting and in communication sessions with their children in socio-culturally atypical and new in Laos. Age and hierarchy in the family dictate that children simply obey their parents and there is little room for discussion. This had led to a lower than expected participation of parents in the activities, especially in the sessions with children.

In the future we will be implementing awareness raising activities on the importance of supporting young people before starting the sessions for parents as a strategy for increasing attendance.

Lessons Learnt

The relationship with our partner, the Laos Women's Union (LWU) is critical not only for the effective implementation of the project, but also for the sustainability of the outcomes achieved. Strengthening the technical capacity of the attitudes held by the LWU is a critical focus of the project, where we consciously look for ways to work with the LWU more effectively including coaching for mentors so they can learn leadership skills, discuss the content of the sessions and to exchange ideas.

Participant quote

"In the past I did not think about the negative consequences of early marriage, I did not know about it. But now I can share my story, which is similar to the stories of the curriculum, and I can inform girls who are younger than me on the risks associated to early marriage.

In the past I sometime accepted the violence in the house just to keep the family together. Now I know that violence is not acceptable, and we need to talk, understand and respect each other if we want to be happy."

– Yia Thor is 19 year old, Hmong young woman

What next

This project was part of the ongoing Save the Children's Safe in My Community program.

How was it this funded?

Thanks to hundreds of tiny donations from these online businesses and their customers.

World Nomads USA
World Nomads Canada
Travel Insurance Direct AU
Travel Insurance Direct NZ
World Nomads Australia
World Nomads NZ
World Nomads UK
World Nomads Global
World Nomads Europe
Save The Children Australia

Save the Children Australia aims to ensure that all children, regardless of gender, race, country of origin or religious belief have the means for survival, receive protection and have access to nutrition, primary health care and basic education.