Youth drama show unveils hidden harmful norms

Despite the prevalent local acceptance of harmful practices, Chanpheng, now in her final year of secondary school, took a bold step by using a drama show competition to reveal hidden harmful gender norms and inequality.

Chanpheng and her peers perform a drama on the stage.
Chanpheng and her peers perform a role play on the stage and her team win the award © Plan International Laos

In the midst of societal norms that perpetuate harms against adolescent girls and young women, one brave 16-year-old schoolgirl, Chanpheng, along with her peers, stands up. They begin to advocate for change within their school and community.

“I don’t want to see girls or young women suffering from unwanted pregnancy or early marriage.”


Seeing girls dropping out of school in the area where Chanpheng and her peers live is common. Many girls and young women between the ages of 20 and 24 got married before their 18th birthday. The dire situation has only intensified over time.

“I don’t want to see girls or young women suffering from unwanted pregnancy or early marriage. We are capable of contributing to our community or nation as much as males do if we’re educated,” Chanpheng shared.

Chanpheng and her peers decided to participate in the youth drama show competition. They aimed to reveal hidden harmful societal norms in remote areas of Laos, especially in the place where they live.

For years, Chanpheng and her peers have been diligently practicing and performing plays that address harmful gender norms and inequality. Their creations resonate with the struggles and victories of adolescents navigating societal challenges. Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Chanpheng and her team emerged victorious in the drama show competition, earning them a prize trip to the capital city.

Their journey to the International Day of the Girl (IDG) national event marked a significant milestone. Chanpheng proudly shares her performing skills in front of hundred participants in an event that shed light on hidden harmful norms.

Chanpheng reads a pamphlet about SRHR and practices her script.
Chanpheng reads a pamphlet about SRHR © Plan International Laos

Bringing locals to the national stage

“It served as a wake-up call for decision-makers who may not have been fully aware of the extent of harmful norms in their communities.”


The story depicted by Chanpheng and her team on the IDG stage highlighted the grim reality of forced marriage, neglect, and domestic violence. “It served as a wake-up call for decision-makers who may not have been fully aware of the extent of harmful norms in their communities,” expressed Chanpheng.

Participating in the IDG event was a transformative experience for Chanpheng. She recounts visiting various booths and gaining valuable information on family planning and sexual health. “It made me rethink my approach to relationships and emphasised the importance of education and protection,” shared Chanpheng.

Inspired by her newfound perspective, Chanpheng has set her sights on higher education. She aspires to become a scientist and contribute to positive change in her community.

Chanpheng and her peers perform a a drama on the national IDG event.
Chanpheng and her peers perform a role play on the IDG event at national level in front of hundreds of people. © Plan International Laos

Unlock the power of adolescents to reveal the hidden harms

From the perspective of their school teacher and chaperone on the day, the positive changes in her students are evident. She observed a newfound confidence among them, particularly in public speaking and performance.

However, challenges persist, particularly concerning school dropout rates and early marriages, especially within ethnic communities. Their teacher stressed the urgency of addressing these issues for the future well-being of the Houn District.

Chanpheng and her peers and chaperon explore health services for youth
Chanpheng with her peers and chaperon visit the Vientiane Youth Clinic to explore their health services. © Plan International Laos

Despite the obstacles, adolescents like Chanpheng continue to break the silence and inspire change. Their resilience and determination serve as a beacon of hope for the community.

In the face of economic crises and rising dropout rates, organisations like Plan International Laos are actively working to empower adolescents, especially girls. They do this through initiatives such as comprehensive sexuality education and improved reproductive health services. Chanpheng, her peers and other school adolescents join student club activities that strengthen their sexuality education knowledge, public speaking and performance skills.

Chanpheng’s story is a testament to the power of youth activism and the transformative impact of education. As she and her peers continue to advocate for change, they pave the way for a brighter future for adolescents in Laos.