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FEATURE STORY

Country Gender Assessment for Lao PDR: Key Findings

March 1, 2013

Watch this video to find out about the challenges confronting women in Laos and what can be done to empower them more.

Gender equality makes for smart economics---it can enhance productivity, improve development goals for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.

Trends

  • The private sector is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs. 30-40% of these new entrepreneurs are women.
  • Cross border markets are emerging for hand-woven textiles and other handicrafts produced mainly by women. The government targets to expand the handicrafts market by 15% from 2011 to 2015, with 18% export growth.
  • The electric grid connection increased from 18% of households in 1995 to nearly 72% in 2010. Rural electrification has helped reduce the time women spend on domestic chores.
  • The political representation of women in the National Assembly has grown by nearly 20% since 1990. It's among the highest in the region. However, women continue to struggle to participate in equal numbers.
  • Rural areas are undergoing rapid transformation and off-farm jobs are helping pull households out of poverty. But, at the same time, this also makes women who don't have access to arable land and lack off-farm skills more vulnerable.
  • Women are mainly responsible for household water supply and energy for cooking yet their voices are still often excluded from local and national decision-making processes about how to manage risks from natural disaster and climate change.

Recommendations

Laos is at a critical juncture to harness its economic growth to ensure that everyone can benefit. To achieve this, it's necessary for place gender equality and women's empowerment at the center of its national development plans.

  • Increase the coverage and quality of maternal and reproductive health and nutrition, with a focus on remote areas.
  • Pursue a labor-intensive growth strategy that expands opportunities, especially in emerging industries such as tourism, garments, and food processing.
  • Expand women's control over finance, land, and business training for farm and non-farm enterprises.
  • Improve female participation in transport, hydropower, and mining operations.
  • Support regional policy dialogue on how to minimize risks from regional economic integration through forums such as the Greater Mekong Sub-region Working Group on Human Resources Development and the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking.