September 3, 2012
The Lao Women’s Union (LWU) and United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) last week launched a nationwide Shelter Self-Improvement Initiative.
The aim is to improve the quality of care and service being provided in shelters serving trafficking victims nationwide.
The week-long event brought together shelter managers and case workers from all of the shelters, transit centres and drop-in centres in the country to share their experiences with good practices and challenges in shelter operation, victim referral systems and case management, and to be equipped with the tools and knowledge for bringing their services and facilities up to international standards.
A workshop early in the week familiarised shelter staff with the assessment checklist and toolkit to standardise shelter services in the Lao PDR and bring them up to international quality of care standards. Interactive workshop sessions assessed the common needs of trafficked persons in their integration and recovery, while analysing how well Lao shelters are currently meeting these needs. Later in the week, the group of service providers visited three shelters, a transit centre, and a drop-in centre in Vientiane to assess the facilities against the international standards in the shelter self-improvement checklist.
Deputy Chief of Child Protection of the Lao Women’s Counselling and Protection Centre, Ms Phiewlavanh Inthaboualy, said “I consider this a great opportunity. For the first time, five shelters have met and exchanged information and it is important that all shelters review their own services.”
A social worker for the Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Ms Somsanith Thanthavong, also shared her self-assessment of the Social Welfare Shelter stating “based on the theory that UNIAP shared, the Social Welfare Shelter needs to place more emphasis on social workers. There are currently only a few staff working at the transit centre. Additionally, the space at our centre is too small for victims to play or exercise. While it is situated in a convenient location, the area is too crowded and public in terms of victim safety and identity protection. Through the workshop, I’ve been able to identify these points of improvement for our shelter.”
Chief Technical Advisor for UNIAP Dr Lisa Rende Taylor congratulated the Lao government and society for its ambitions to improve shelter standards nationwide, and expressed appreciation for shelter staff who work closely with victims of trafficking on a day to day basis.
She stated that “Shelter staff have a difficult job, and a very important job. They know Lao victims of trafficking intimately, and it is important that the broader anti-trafficking community understand the needs and concerns of the victims that shelter staff see. Shelter staff at all levels should be supported, and their voices should be heard so that we can plan together how to most effectively provide recovery and (re)integration services to trafficked persons.”
Shelter assessment visits for facilities in Savannakhet and Champassak are planned for the near future, after which UNIAP will be providing funds to participating shelters for facility and system improvements, and institutional capacity building.
The Shelter Self-Improvement Project is a part of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Human Trafficking (COMMIT) Process, an inter-governmental initiative involving the six countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region – Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – to strengthen regional collaboration to combat human trafficking.