ENCOURAGING WOMEN TO LEAD
Building skills and confidence in Laos
Men and women enjoy equal rights in Laos, yet in many ways the culture remains patriarchal. Especially in rural areas, girls are burdened with most domestic tasks, and are significantly less likely to attend school. Loans for a small business are difficult to come by for women, and although women are represented in government, it is usually men who speak up and make key decisions. In response, our local office is working with women from village councils to national government, and all areas in between, to build leadership and decision-making skills. For example, we supported the Lao Businesswomen's Association, part of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to host a leadership and networking workshop for 50 Lao businesswomen. The businesses represented were wide-ranging, from wood furniture and handicrafts producers to restaurants, hotels, and a mulberry tree plantation. We also supported leadership workshops hosted by the Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women and the Lao Women's Union, and we continued a three-year program for women leaders conducted by the Gender Development Association focused on the importance of women officials at the village level. In total, this year 267 women from business, government, civil society, and education were trained. Additionally, we were able to support 50 young women from 13 different provinces with full four-year scholarships at the National University of Laos.