Anny Huamaksone, a 17-year-old upper secondary school student was staying home with her family of 6 as we interviewed her virtually. The native Ngoy Villager, born and raised in the main district of Xiengkhuang Province of Pek, had high hopes for a promised future.
Before the recent wave of COVID-19, Anny spends majority of her time at her boarding school. But due to restrictions, she had to study from home. Though not an ethnic citizen, she was enrolled in the Ethnic boarding secondary school in Xiengkhouang. The school has been supported by the Vietnamese government, which also provides boarding and meal fees for the students. 5-6 scholarships will also be provided to outstanding graduates to support them to continue their bachelor in Vietnam each year.
Having been chosen as a member of the Youth’s Voice for the National Youth Development Strategy Dissemination, organized by the Lao Youth’s Union, Anny believes that her role is to be a good example for those who will soon become youths in her community. And there were some issues that she hoped to see improved in both her school and community.
Anny personally felt that a key issue seen among her classmates was starting a family at a very young age. She’s seen some of her juniors and female friends who left the school to be married as young as 15-16 years old. The struggles to make ends meet for those couples were evident to Anny. They relied on their partners who are also young and do not have a stable income. Anny assumes they might think that marrying young is a short cut to an easy life, but she believes that investing time and patience in education will bring a brighter life for all.
Since Secondary 5 (grade 10), Anny saw her friends with children and seemingly not having easy lives. “I don’t want to have a husband that young to live like that. I want to make my parents proud. I want to be more educated and further my studies in the major that I like,” shared Anny.
As the oldest child and daughter in her family, Anny expressed that she has been fortunate that her family has never pressured her against her will. They have always encouraged her to pursue a goal of her own. “My parents have only told me to give my all. To not do anything half-way and give up,” she pridefully said.
Anny shared, “My dream is to study health sciences after finishing secondary school; however, I want to learn about sewing and at least some basics about livestock or growing plants for food while at secondary school. In case I am unable to find a job in formal sector after graduation- I could use these skills to set up a shop for myself to make a living and help my family by having a small business.”
In that regard, Anny sees how important vocational skills are to avoid becoming jobless. With the extra time available outside of their usual classes, she believes that skill development courses will be useful to be integrated to enhance future opportunities. A good start as shared by Anny, is being allowed to choose a specific field which they want to work on later while finishing up their final years in school. This is also beneficial for students in general as they can graduate with 2 diplomas at the same time.
Anny further expressed that despite unemployment being one of the main challenges in society, a bigger problem for her is the access to health or medical services. Anny said that she isn’t the healthiest person among her peers. Therefore, she’s even more afraid of what can happen to her in the future.
Anny has some difficulties with breathing every now and then, with discomforts in her back and waist area. She occasionally feels light-headed too. Fortunately, these symptoms have never disrupted her studies. As soon as she starts feeling uncomfortable, she will try to stay hydrated, take medications and rest whenever possible. Nevertheless, she still doesn’t know what the root cause of these are.
Like herself, her family members also face some health challenges. She wants to therefore, benefit the community, as well as her family with the skills she wishes to attain. But, the dream has yet to be realized.
There are many more young people like Anny who are dedicated, yet unsure of how their futures will be. With that gentle yet powerful will in her voice, we felt nothing but pride to hear such clear direction a young woman can have.
By: Aksonethip Somvorachit, Communications Analyst; and Viriya Vilavongsa, Programme Analyst, Social and Economic Opportunities for Youth, UNDP Lao PDR.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and not the United Nations Development Programme.
UNDP in partnership with Lao People’s Youth Union, Lao Women’s Union, Ministry of Information, Culture and Transportation is working together to advocate for youth engagement and economic empowerment of youth.