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The Asia Foundation
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First Shelter For Women And Children In Laos Opens

San Francisco and Vientiane, January 12, 2006 — The Asia Foundation Responds to Urgent Need for Women’s Refuge and Services

The Asia Foundation, the premier non-profit organization devoted to Asia’s development since 1954, today announced the opening of the first safe shelter in the Lao PDR for women and children victims of domestic violence and trafficking. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Laos consistently ranks among the lowest on education, unemployment, infant mortality, and other social and economic indicators. These desperate conditions, along with a lack of resources and public information, create an environment ripe for human trafficking and domestic abuse. In response, The Lao Women’s Union and The Asia Foundation planned and constructed a state-of-the-art, multi-use shelter designed to protect and empower Lao women and girls. This shelter is a direct result of groundbreaking Lao legislation to protect these vulnerable populations, and a growing awareness of violence against women.

The new full-service shelter, located near the capital city of Vientiane, features long-term housing for as many as 50 women and children; on-staff counselors and trained women’s advocates; and an array of wellness services. In order to maintain a high level of protection for its occupants, the shelter, currently comprised of three buildings, is located in the outskirts of the city and is surrounded by a security wall. Transportation to the shelter is provided by the Lao Women’s Union.

“Since 1954, The Asia Foundation has advanced the lives of women and girls in Asia,” said Carol Yost, director for The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program. “The Laos shelter is the culmination of a massive effort in Laos to end violence against women and trafficking crimes and to help women and girls find legitimate, safe jobs.”

In 2004, The Asia Foundation and the Lao Women’s Union released the first-ever research survey on violence against women in Laos. The findings — an alarming occurrence of violence against women, a lack of resources for victims, and little to no assistance from family members or community groups — immediately triggered the first anti-trafficking and domestic violence legislation in the history of the nation, the Development and Protection of Women Act.

“For the bill to be successful, for women and children to truly be safe and to develop skills that would earn them independence, we knew that shelter, counseling services, and training programs must simultaneously be made available to victims in a secure, supportive environment,” adds Yost.

In 2005, as a result of this new legislation and recommendations made by the Lao Women’s Union and The Asia Foundation, construction of the new shelter began on the plot of land donated by the Lao government. Through the assistance of Give2Asia, a charity founded by The Asia Foundation to promote private philanthropic giving to Asia, The Asia Foundation provided major support for the planning and construction of the shelter. UNICEF and the Japanese Embassy in Laos funded the construction of two buildings on the premises.

Currently, the fourth building, a vocational training center, is being planned with funds from The Asia Foundation and Give2Asia. This training facility — both for shelter residents and at-risk women and girls — will offer women new job skills, such as handicrafts, sewing, and basic business management. These new skills will empower women to find work, support themselves, and establish their freedom from violence.

A speech was delivered by Gretchen A. Kunze, Assistant Representative of The Asia Foundation in Thailand at the opening ceremony of the first shelter for women in Laos. Read more about the shelter.

To find out how to make a contribution to the Laos shelter or to other important projects like it, please visit Give2Asia at www.Give2Asia.org.

For more information please see the Press Room.

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