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Empowering Adolescents: Transforming Futures in Son La

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Empowering Adolescents: Transforming Futures in Son La


Nestled amidst the mountains of northwest Vietnam, remote Son La province grapples with pressing challenges surrounding adolescent health, including early marriage and high rates of adolescent pregnancy. These issues stem from social norms and limited access to knowledge and information among young people on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) and gender equality (GE) topics, along with limited ASRH services at health facilities.

In response to these issues, HealthBridge launched the “Improving reproductive health and preventing child marriage in Nepal and Vietnam” project funded by Global Affairs Canada. One component of this project is to implement sexuality and relationship education for adolescent girls and boys in schools and the broader community.

One program participant is Tram, a 9th grade student at Nguyen Trai Secondary School in Son La. While speaking with Tram she commented that “Local people, especially children and young adolescents in Son La face many difficulties in accessing essential health care services, and child marriage still persists.” She dreams of being a doctor in the future so that she can help more people in her community, but she also wanted to get involved in community health issues now.

In September 2023, Tram and her friend, Phuong attended a training on ASRH and communication skills delivered by HealthBridge. After participating Tram felt motivated to share the knowledge she gained with her classmates and along with Phuong, gave a presentation on basic ASRH to their class, including topics such as GE and sexual abuse.

Students participating in session
Students participating in session

When asked why she thought the topic of ASRH was so important to share Tram stated,

For me, it is crucial to share information about sexual and reproductive health. Child marriage and unwanted pregnancy still occur in our community. We should speak about these issues and take action to prevent them from happening. It is not just about the present, it is also about preparing for the future.

Student presentation

Tram’s presentation was met with engagement and enthusiasm from her peers, highlighting the importance of open dialogue on these sensitive topics within the community.

Looking ahead, Tram envisions an expansive outreach strategy to ensure broader dissemination of ASRH education, advocating for collaborative endeavors with other students such as talk shows and discussions to amplify knowledge-sharing across diverse groups.

For me, once we organize a session in one class, we gain confidence to continuously carry out the next ones in other classes. Everyone can serve as a collaborator who shares knowledge with others. To disseminate the knowledge widely, we can host talk shows or discussions on various ASRH topics, then they [participants] can continuously share with broader groups. This ensures a more effective spread of knowledge.

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Malnutrition, infectious diseases and emerging epidemics have devastating effects on communities where people have little or no access to health services, public spaces or good nutrition.

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