By Phon Thikeo
March 11, 2011
The union under the leadership of the provincial Lao People’s Revolutionary Party Committee has set up 140 fund units and two credit cooperatives over the past five years.
“It is a great achievement of the Lao Women’s Union in Savannakhet province that we can help low income families, particularly vulnerable women, to access financial support,” President of the provincial union Ms Bounnheun Thipphuttavong said.
She said more low income families in urban and rural areas now have access to financial sources. Once they are members, they are able to borrow money from the fund when they need to.
“The fund now contains 11 billion kip. This money is available for all members to borrow when they need it. Many low income families have borrowed money to improve their livelihoods,” Ms Bounnheun said.
She said they borrowed money to grow crops and make handicrafts such as household utensils and woven garments for sale.
Over the past five years, the lives of women in remote areas have improved greatly since the government invested in infrastructure development in Savannakhet province. People living in remote areas now have access to electricity, water and roads, as well as credit funds.
“Transportation in all districts continues to improve in both the dry and wet seasons. Roads help people to transport their crops to local markets. Over the past five years, under the leadership of the Party, women have benefited from improved infrastructure. Women simply don’t carry the burden of work as much as they did in the past,” Ms Bounnheun said.
She also said women in Savannakhet province have been promoted to the equal of their male counterparts over the past five years. Their role has increased in many fields, particularly in decision-making.
“Women have been promoted to the positions of district governor and vice district governor. It is only a small step but it is better than having no women representatives in political positions of power,” she said.
Ms Bounnheun also said the role of women in a decision-making has increased thanks to the provincial Party Committee. At present, 39 women are members of district Party committees and two women are vice secretaries of district Party committees.
However, in the next five years, the number of women in decision-making positions in Savannakhet province is expected to increase even further, but for now it still pales in comparison with the entire population. Women account for over 50 percent of Laos’ population. Savannakhet province consists of 15 districts with a total population of over 870,000 people. There are 1,016 villages with over 142,332 families.
Ms Bounnheun said women in decision-making positions will include those from various ethnic groups. Four districts in the province rank among the poorest in the country.
“Ethnic women will work together to help all women in poor districts enjoy better standards of living so Laos can graduate from the UN’s list of least developed countries by 2020,” she said.
By expanding credit funds to all districts, officials hope poor families will be able to boost their income and ease their poverty.
“We plan to set up funds in all districts by 2015. The money available for loans will rise to more than 11 billion kip in the next five years,” Ms Bounnheun said.