Women’s Rights

Reporters sharpen pencils to combat violence against women

By Bounfaeng Phaymanivong
March 18, 2013

Millions of women and girls globally are subjected to forms of violence such as rape, intimate partner violence, female genital mutilation, early marriage and sexual violence.

This was the message from UNFPA Deputy Representative Ms Rizvina De Alwis when opening a day-long training session in Vientiane on Friday for 28 journalists. The reporters will use the information gained to write articles about the importance of ending violence against women and girls in Laos.

“As a member of the global community, the media plays a key role in stopping, preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls by publishing articles relating to solutions, protection and the end of violence,” she said.

Domestic violence is a common occurrence in rural Laos because of poor access to justice for women in ethnic communities, and an absence of data and information on the incidence of violence and on the availability of services for survivors, Ms Alwis said.

She said media personnel can play a part in keeping women and girls safe and sensitively reporting on cases of violence.

“We hope this training session will have a positive impact on the lives of women and girls in Laos and that journalists in Vientiane can learn about various writing styles concerning these sensitive cases,” she said.

One participant, Mr Kongkeo Syviengkham, a reporter from TV Lao, said he hoped to gain a lot of information for use in his articles, and learn how best to spread the message to other community members.

“It’s a great chance for all participants to learn from an experienced trainer who has a lot of experience about how to write sensitive articles. I will use what I learn to improve the quality of my work,” Mr Kongkeo said.

He said violence against women and girls is well hidden in Lao society and people tend to overlook the matter so that it is not discussed. But this means nothing is done to address the problem.

“It is now time for the media to spread information about this issue so that we can encourage people to learn how to protect themselves from violence and harassment. But the media alone cannot bring an end to violence; we need supportive action from all government bodies and UN agencies,” he added.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day on March 8 was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”.

International Women’s Day coincided with a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women which addressed the issue of violence against women, and took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

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First female parachutist in Laos shows women they can fly

By Xayxana Leukai
March 9, 2013

Lieutenant Souphavanh Kilachanh

Thousands of people in Xayaboury province had their eyes turned skywards to focus on an army helicopter, as a team of parachutists jumped out when the door opened.

The crowd had gathered for the opening ceremony of the Elephant Festival last month, and feasted their eyes on the daring actions of the team of army experts.

The team was led by Lieutenant Souphavanh Kilachanh, 36, and their exploits earned the congratulations on the onlookers after they landed smoothly and safely. The jump brought Souphavanh’s tally to more than the 1,000 since she joined the army in 1995.

She was the first woman in the whole of Laos to brave the jump down from a helicopter when she was employed with Battalion 702 in Xieng Khuang province 18 years ago.

“Some men and women were afraid to jump from such a height,” she recalls, adding that for her it was different as she really wanted to follow suit when she saw the men jumping.

Souphavanh is frequently invited to lead her team in entertaining spectators during opening ceremonies and other special occasions.

It is a source of great pride to her to know that she can contribute to such events. There are not many women brave enough to jump from a height of more than 1,000 metres and as she has already completed this feat more than 1,000 times it has now become an honour for her rather than a fear.

“It’s the sense of adventure and challenge that attracts me to parachuting. When I joined the army, I always saw men jumping but never women. So I decided to make a jump when the helicopter was at an altitude of about 2,000 metres,” she recalls.

It’s not easy to be a good parachutist, she says, but if you are brave and do a lot of training it’s certainly possible. First she studied the theory involved and learnt how to control a parachute during a jump.

She first practised jumping from a height of just two or three metres.

During her 18 years of jumping, she has never had an accident. She says good preparation is very important if you want to touch down safely. It’s also best to avoid jumping in bad weather, such as strong wind or rain.

Souphavanh says the safest altitude range for a jump is 2,500 to 3,000 metres. However, she decided to jump from 1,500 metres at the Elephant Festival because she wanted the spectators to see her and her teammates actually stepping out of the helicopter.

She became the first woman teacher in the sport three years ago after having joined Battalion 703 in Vientiane back in 1999. Every Thursday morning, she takes trainees out on practice jumps to make sure they learn all the right skills. However, they have a long way to go before they can chalk up more than 1,000 jumps like their teacher.

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Lao Red Cross women promote gender equity

By Sisouphan Amphonephong
March 9, 2013

The Lao Red Cross held a special ceremony on Thursday to consider the traditional role of women and their part in promoting gender equity on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

Members of the organisation’s Women’s Union and Lao Trade Union and more than 20 other staff attended the event, which was also attended by the President of the Lao Red Cross, Mr Laoly Faiphengyua, and Deputy President of its Women’s Union, Ms Douangchan Kongfaly.

Speaking on behalf of the unions’ members, one woman stressed the importance of women’s inclusion and their role in promoting gender equity.

She encouraged Women’s Union members to strive harder for the advancement of women in their role as employees of the Lao Red Cross.

Local and international organisations in Laos work to promote the role and rights of women and protect their welfare and wellbeing, with various initiatives underway under the supervision of the Lao Women’s Union and international agencies.

International Women’s Day is observed every year in Laos by many offices and organisations, who hold sports events and entertainment activities to create a festive atmosphere and recognise the contribution made by women to society and the country’s development.

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Vientiane and Hanoi women enhance cooperation

By Vinnaly
March 7, 2013

Chairwoman of Vientiane Women's Federation, Ms. Lamphoy Si-akkhachanh, fifth from left, and Chairwoman of Hanoi Women's Federation Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Thanh.

Chairwoman of Vientiane Women’s Federation, Ms. Lamphoy Si-akkhachanh, fifth from left, and Chairwoman of Hanoi Women’s Federation Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Thanh.

Vientiane and Hanoi Women’s Unions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in Vientiane on March 4.

The signatories of the document were Chairwoman of Vientiane Women’s Union Ms. Lamphoy Si-akkhachanh, and Chairwoman of Hanoi Women’s Union Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Thanh.

The signing was witnessed by President of Vientiane Party and Vientiane Capital State Inspection Committee, Mr. Sihun Sitthiluesay, relevant officials of Lao Women’s Union, Vietnamese Charge d’Affaires to Laos, and businesswomen.

The MoU is made according to the agreement between Party Secretaries of Vientiane and Hanoi on exchange visits between the two women’s unions.

The MoU is to enhance the longstanding special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between Vientiane and Hanoi women, especially on gender roles and women and children’s rights protection.

Both sides have agreed to promote the lesson exchange between women of the two capitals at district levels. Hanoi Women’s Union will assist Vientiane Women’s Union in training its members and will create favourable conditions for the enhancement of existing cooperation between the two capitals.

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Lao Women’s Union mark International Women’s Day in Manila

March 8, 2013

Lao Women's Union speaking to villagers on gender equality.

Lao Women’s Union speaking to villagers on gender equality.

The Women’s Union of the Lao Embassy in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, organized on 3 March a meeting to mark International Women’s Day (March 8). The event was attended by Mrs. Malayvieng Sakoniyom, Lao ambassador to the Philippines, Embassy’s staff, Lao students and Lao expatriates in the Philippines.

During the ceremony, Mrs. Souksanith Vongphankham, Head of Women’s Union of Lao Embassy in the Philippines, highlighted the history and background of March 8. She also reviewed the achievements made by her organization in the past year.

On the occasion, Mrs. Malayvieng highlighted the importance of International Women’s Day and asked the women who participated in the gathering to preserve the culture of Laos, especially the fine tradition of Lao women.

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ADB, World Bank: ‘Women should hold up half the sky in Laos’

March 4, 2013

All female team of UXO Laos Deminers, working in Dakdoung, Sekong Province, Laos. Photo: Pisay Souvansay / AusAID

Laos could reap greater benefits from the country’s rapid economic growth by reducing gender inequality and vulnerability in remote rural areas, according to a new joint report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.

The ADB and World Bank launched the country gender assessment for Laos on Friday with the Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women attending the launching ceremony.

The report said economic growth has also enhanced women’s ability to take full advantage of expanding economic opportunities, particularly in urban and lowland areas.

International experts have agreed that gender equality is a core development objective and is also smart economics, saying that it can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.

The assessment presents gender issues and provides recommendations for the issues into three main areas of gender equality – endowment, economic opportunities, and agency.

“The country gender assessment for Laos has the subtitle of reducing vulnerability, and increasing opportunity for all women in the country. This is exactly what we would like to see in a dynamically changing Laos,” said ADB Country Director for Laos, Mr Chong Ghi Nai.

The report suggests that although the government’s commitment to achieving gender equality has progressed, persistent imbalances remain in human development endowments such as in health, education, and clean water and sanitation, particularly in remote areas.

Geographic, socio-cultural, and linguistic challenges also remain, the report said.

Regarding business, the private sector is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs in the country, and 30 to 40 percent of these new entrepreneurs are women. However, the report says, emerging opportunities and new risks affect women and men differently.

While women are active participants in the labour force, wage gaps persist and job options for women and men remain segregated.

In politics, the report says, women’s participation has steadily advanced, but their increasing representation within the government structures at central level has not filtered down to the provincial and local levels, despite efforts by the Lao Women’s Union to reach out to women from national to village level.

To address these issues, the assessment recommends expanding the coverage and quality of social services, expanding job opportunities through improved technical and vocational training, narrowing gender gaps in accessing productive assets, improving women’s involvement in infrastructure investments, reducing violence against women, improving capacity and institutional support for gender mainstreaming machinery, and supporting progress in women’s representation in government at national and local levels.

“As Laos continues along its development path, empowering women and girls will be key to translating the country’s economic growth and demographic dividend into development achievements,” said World Bank Country Director for Laos Ms Keiko Miwa.

The assessment has taken information and findings from recent literature and research on gender issues in Laos for ADB’s and World Bank’s country partnership strategies.

It will also contribute to the work of the Lao government and development partners by bringing the latest information on gender issues to the fore.

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Govt steps up efforts to end violence against women

January 30, 2013

Policy makers have said the government should prioritise plans to end violence against women and girls after learning that efforts to address the issue have failed to yield satisfactory results.

More than 50 officials and experts from the ministries involved and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) met at a two-day seminar that ended yesterday in Thoulakhom district, Vientiane province.

Participants reviewed the legislation Laos has put in place to address the issue and made recommendations to improve the situation so that Laos meets international human rights standards.

The level of violence against women in Lao families remains high. In 2011, Laos was ranked 138th out of 187 countries in the human development index, according to a press release issued by the seminar.

This low ranking signifies that the level of violence against women remains high, an official attending the seminar told the Vientiane Times .

In addition, the Gender Inequality Index ranked Laos 107th out of 146 countries.

“In this connection, the Lao PDR should give priority to works to end violence against women and girls by adopting comprehensive measures and in particular laws relevant to prevent violence against women and gender violence,” the press release stated.

A report issued in 2009 on the current situation in Laos concerning implementation of the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Laos is a state party, also raised concerns over the level of violence against women and girls.

In response to this evaluation, the Lao Ministry of Justice and CIDA jointly organised the seminar to discuss measures that should be formulated to address the issue.

“This seminar is one of the initiatives taken towards amending the law on the prevention of violence against women,” the press release said, adding that the amendment aimed to make the law more comprehensive and relevant to the current situation in Laos.

A recent survey disclosed last week by the Lao Women’s Union revealed that the violence inflicted on women and children is often the result of excessive alcohol consumption.

Many women in Laos suffer from domestic violence as a result of men drinking too much alcohol and becoming violent towards their partners.

The survey covered the three districts of Chanthabouly, Sisattanak and Xaythany in Vientiane, and questioned males aged 15-49. Drunkenness among men is one of the underlying causes of family problems, which include violence against women and children, and forcing women to have sex, the survey found. It also points to the fact that men’s excessive alcohol consumption could increase further, because younger men tend to follow the example of their friends and also take to the bottle.

Laos has no law banning children under 18 from buying alcohol as is common in many other countries.

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Women’s Union of MOFA present gifts to frontline soldiers

January 17, 2013

Mrs. Naly Sisoulith (right) presents 5 million kip in cash to Dr. Venkeo Outhavong.

Mrs. Naly Sisoulith (right) presents 5 million kip in cash to Dr. Venkeo Outhavong.

The Women’s Union of the External Relation Commission of the Party CC and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) held a ceremony in Vientiane on 16 January to present grant aids to the Women’s Union of the Ministry of National Defence, who will then deliver them to the military officers who are working in the rural and remote areas.

Mrs. Khampao Ernthavanh, President of Women Union of MOFA, presented the grant aids to Dr. Venkeo Outhavong, President of Women Union of Ministry of National Defence. Mrs. Naly Sisoulith, spouse of Dr. Thongloun Sisoulith and honorable President of the Women’s Union of MOFA, was invited to witness the presentation of the said grant aids.

The grant aids included 3 million kip consumer goods and 5 million of cash. The grant aids is a contribution from the women of the MOFA and External Relation Commission of the Party CC.

On this occasion, the Women’s Union of MOFA also conveyed their best wishes and warm greetings to all women, soldiers and military during the 64th Anniversary Founding of the Lao People’s Army.

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Extended healthcare project to improve child, maternal health

January 10, 2013

Lao doctor extending health education to women and mothers at health center.

Three international organisations have injected more than 13.1 billion kip (US$1.6 million) to extend a healthcare programme to help Champassak province improve child and maternal health.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) to extend the Pilot Safe Motherhood and Childhood Programme was signed on January 8 at the Public Health Department of the southern province.

Department Director Dr Khampho Chaleunvong and General Coordinator of Médecins du Monde (MdM) Ms Isabelle Decout signed the MOU to continue the activities of the programme’s phase II in four districts for another three years (January 2013-December 2015).

The Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Médecins du Monde – France and Medecins du Monde – Japan funded the programme which aims to contribute to reducing mortality and morbidity in mothers and children aged under five in Mounlapamok and Soukhoumma districts, according to a press release from officials in charge.

Ms Decout confirmed that it will focus on improving healthcare for mothers, newborns and children under the age of five.

This will be achieved by improving the capability of healthcare staff by assisting Champassak College of Health Sciences to train community midwives as well as building capacity for medical staff in district hospitals and health centres.

Other activities will involve waste management assistance and the provision of medical equipment for health centres and district hospitals in Mounlapamok and Soukhoumma.

The programme’s phase II will also focus on strengthening emergency obstetric care in Champassak and Khong district hospitals as well as setting up the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS project at the health centre level.

In collaboration with the Lao and Swiss Red Cross, the programme will continue to operate a voucher scheme for free delivery, ante- and postnatal care, pregnancy complications, round-trips from village to health centre, food and referral.

“The second phase will add free care services for children under five in line with the Ministry of Health notice No 0785, August 2012,” the press release said.

The programme will also work at the village level by providing health education on sexual practices, the reproductive system, care of newborns and children under five, according to the press release.

Director of the Mother and Child Health Center, Dr Khampiou Sihakang, said the programme supports government efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 as targeted, specifically goals 4 and 5 to reduce infant mortality and improve maternal health.

Deputy Governor of Champassak province Mr Bounthong Divisay and relevant officials attended the signing ceremony.

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PM praises efforts towards advancement of women

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
December 19, 2012

Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong.

Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong on Monday addressed the Plenary Meeting of the National Commission for the Advancement of Women (NCAW), saying he is pleased with their ongoing progress.

More than 100 participants from the NCAW including deputy ministers, provincial vice governors and ministry officials attended the meeting.

They discussed the NCAW’s plan for 2012-2013 and talked about the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women for 2011-2015.

This strategy will put into practice four breakthrough steps, the first being the development of an information system to create awareness of gender equality.

The second will support the advancement and strengthening of women’s rights.

The third will promote women in the workplace and encourage more women to seek leadership roles. The final step will be to implement Laos’ obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Millennium Development Goals.

The annual meeting took place as the Party, state, army and other sectors are implementing the Resolution of the 9th Party Congress, the National Socio-Economic Development Plan and the implementation of Sam Sang (the Three Builds) across the country.

Mr Thongsing received a report from the NCAW about its work over the past year. He expressed satisfaction, saying the advancement of women in several sectors in local areas is progressing more quickly.

A number of women already hold senior positions in the Party and state, the Lao Front for National Construction, and several mass organisations.

The President of the National Assembly is female and several other women are members of the Party Central Committee. Women have also been appointed as ministers, deputy ministers and to other senior positions at the central and provincial levels

He also called for more awareness in society of the importance of involving more women from ethnic groups as part of the nation’s development.

The government established the National Commission for the Advancement of Women in 2003 to assist with research, policies and strategic plans aimed at promoting the advancement of women.

The commission also liaises and coordinates with counterpart bodies around the world and follows up and monitors the implementation of Party policies and national strategic plans aimed at promoting the advancement of women.

As a party to CEDAW, Laos has actively implemented its obligations to promote the advancement of women and eliminate violence against women.

Surveys show that violence against women in Laos occurs for various reasons, within families and also within some communities.

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