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Speech by United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Pratibha Mehta at the Launching Ceremony of the Exhibition "As we grow up"

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Date:       Friday, 1 November 2013
Event:     Launching Ceremony of the Exhibition "As we grow up"
Venue:   Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology, Nguyen Van Huyen street, Ha Noi


Professor/ Dr. Tran Quang Quy, Vice Minister of Education and Training;

Mr. Dang Quoc Toan, Secretary of Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union;

Mr. Vo Quang Trong, Director of the Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology;

Distinguished participants from the Government, International organizations;

Colleagues from the UN and media;

Ladies and gentlemen;

I am delighted to be here at the opening of "As we grow up" - a groundbreaking exhibition on healthy sexuality for Vietnamese adolescents and young people.
Over the next 6 months, adolescents and young people and their parents will have the chance to learn all about growing up – about love and relationships, and how to have healthy sexual and reproductive lives, in this safe, supportive – and quite fascinating – educational environment.

This exhibition is powerful in the way that it delivers critical and sensitive information in a youth-friendly way. It is designed to help equip young people to handle life’s most serious decisions.

It is also the first exhibit of its kind to employ such an innovative peer-to-peer approach. Young people have been deeply involved at every stage – in the early design of the exhibit, in collecting information and developing content. Over the coming months they will play a lead role in its day-to-day running.

So why is it so important?

Young people aged 10-29 make up nearly 40 per cent of Viet Nam’s total population - the highest proportion of young people ever in the country's history.

But in such a period of dramatic social and economic change, sexual norms and behaviour are changing. Young people are become sexually active earlier - often having unprotected sex due to limited access to information and contraceptives. Teen pregnancy is rising.

Whilst abortion rates among married women seem to have stabilized, more abortions are occurring among young unmarried women and adolescents. There are now 30 abortions per 100 live births, which is a very high rate.

Young people still know alarmingly little about HIV/AIDS. Only four out of ten Vietnamese youth aged 15 to 24 have comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission, far less than the national target of 95 percent by 2015.

Young men and women also need to have the skills to form good relationships. According to the 2010 National Study on Domestic Violence, nearly six out of ten ever-married women had experienced at least one form of domestic violence. More than a third experienced physical or sexual abuse.
So what needs to be done?

Recent studies show that one third of Vietnamese adolescents and young people still face barriers when trying to access reproductive health information and services. Services need to be youth-friendly, and better tailored to meet young people’s specific needs.

It has taken both imagination and courage to mount this exhibition. I applaud the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ho Chi Minh Youth Union, the Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology and the combined expertise of six UN Agencies in Viet Nam – UNESCO, UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNWOMEN, UNICEF and UNODC – for taking such a bold step in the right direction.

Adolescents and young people’s needs and rights must be at the forefront of Viet Nam’s development agenda. Equipped with the right knowledge, skills and opportunities, adolescent and young people can invest in themselves, their families and communities. There is no better investment - young people are our PRESENT as well as our FUTURE!

Xin Cam On