ADB, World Bank Launch Country Gender Assessment for Lao PDR

The assessment looks at gender issues in Lao PDR and provides recommendations for endowments, economic opportunities and agency.

VIENTIANE, LAO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC – Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) could reap greater benefits from the country’s rapid economic growth by reducing gender inequality and vulnerability in remote rural areas while enhancing women’s ability to take full advantage of expanding economic opportunities, particularly in urban and lowland areas, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank (WB) report.

“The Country Gender Assessment for Lao PDR has a subtitle of Reducing Vulnerability and Increasing Opportunity for all women in the country. This is exactly what we would like to see in dynamically changing Lao PDR,” said Chong Chi Nai, ADB Country Director for Lao PDR.

Gender equality is a core development objective and is also smart economics. Gender equity can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.

The assessment presents gender issues and provides recommendations for the issues into three main dimensions of gender equality – endowments, economic opportunities and agency.

“As Lao PDR continues its development path, empowering women and girls will be a key to translating the country’s economic growth and demographic dividend into development achievements,” says World Bank Country Manager in Lao PDR, Keiko Miwa. “The World Bank together with ADB, is committed to working closely together with the Government of Lao PDR to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment to ensure steady progress toward gender-equitable growth and poverty reduction across Lao PDR.”

The report suggests that although strong government commitment to achieving gender equity has progressed, persistent imbalances remain in human development endowments such as in health, education, and clean water and sanitation, particularly in remote areas. Geographic, socio-cultural and linguistic challenges remain.

The private sector is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs in Lao PDR, and 30%-40% of these new entrepreneurs are women. However, emerging opportunities and new risks affect women and men differently. While women are active participants in the labor force, wage gaps persist and job options for women and men remain segregated.

Women’s voice and participation has steadily advanced in Lao PDR, but women’s increasing representation within central government structures has not filtered down to the provincial and local level, despite efforts by the Lao Women’s Union to reach out to women from the national to village level.

To address these issues, the assessment recommends expanding coverage and quality of social services; expanding job opportunities through improved technical and vocational training; narrowing gender gaps in access to productive assets; improving women’s involvement in infrastructure investments; reducing violence against women, improving capacity and institutional support for gender mainstreaming machinery, and supporting progress in women’s representation in national and local government.

A key challenge for the Government is to successfully manage development and poverty reduction efforts in a manner that is inclusive, pro-poor and gender-responsive. With economic change comes social change, in both the family and the community. New risks and emerging issues affect women and men differently, and will need to be addressed with appropriate services and skills that meet the needs of each gender.

The assessment synthesizes information and findings from recent literature and research on gender issues in Lao PDR for ADB and the WB’s country partnership strategies. It will also contribute to the work of the Government and development partners by bringing latest information on gender issues to the fore.

It also analyzes gender issues related to emerging areas of development and growing risks. Chief among these are the potential challenges associated with regional integration and trade; human trafficking; and growing risks due to climate change.

As Lao PDR continues its development, the empowerment of women and girls will be key to translating the country’s economic growth and the energies of its young people into improved living standards that benefit women and men alike.

Read further on the report at http://www.adb.org/documents/country-gender-assessment-lao-peoples-democratic-republic