July 14, 2012
The participation of women is an important factor in helping the government to reach its development goals and remove Laos from the UN’s list of least developed countries by 2020.
The National Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication and Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) have been successful in using all available resources and efforts to support and empower Lao women by improving their participation in poverty reduction and in sub-project selection together with decision-making, using the Community Driven Development approach.
Since it came into existence in 2003, the PRF has effectively supported women’s inclusion in all its project activities at all levels (from grassroots up to central level), according to a report from the fund.
This is to make sure that women are given opportunities to participate in the decision-making process for all sub-projects that have impacts on their family, community, and village development as well as at the national level.
The PRF’s objective to include women in the decision-making process and sub-project implementation is crucial in contributing to the national poverty eradication strategy because women are an important component in sustainable development and human resource capacity building, as well as national socio-economic well-being.
Community participatory approach at the village, village group and up to district level is the key strategy in the Community Driven Development and PRF approach to support participatory planning mechanisms in sub-project decision-making to improve community livelihoods and hence poverty eradication.
The PRF has given priority to women to discuss and decide for and among themselves their future development aspirations.
For example, in the Village Vision Meeting, participants (age 14 or above) must be at least 50 percent of the total population in the village and female participants need to comprise at least 40 percent of the total number of participants. If not, the meeting must be postponed until all the meeting criteria are met, especially in relation to women’s participation.
In the meetings, women are given opportunities to raise their voice by dividing participants into two groups of men and women so that women have the chance to discuss issues without male domination.
As a result, in the Village Development Plan, 3 out of 5 priorities must come from women. Also, 3 out of 6 village delegates, who will attend the village group development plan meeting, must be women (or 50 percent of the village delegates).
In assistance provided by the PRF last fiscal year, out of 448 sub-projects from seven target provinces, 391 sub-projects (about 88 percent) were chosen and decided by women.
The PRF approach of giving women opportunities to participate in decision making has proven to be an assertive change in women’s empowerment within the community. Apart from taking part in the decision-making process, women have opportunities to participate in all sub-project implementation activities as well as project management.
These positive outcomes have improved gender roles in communities, especially for ethnic women, in development and in achieving the four national breakthrough approaches and Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
This builds a solid foundation for Laos to graduate from the list of least developed countries by 2020.
The Lao government defines poverty as not having enough food, lacking adequate clothing, not having permanent housing and lacking access to health, education and transportation services.