Lao PDR Women's Union (LWU)
The Lao Women’s Union (LWU) was originally established in 1955 to mobilize women for the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. Over forty years later, it has a membership of some 600,000 women nation-wide. In 1991 the LWU was recognized under the Constitution of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) as having responsibility for:
responding to women’s development needs;
promoting the status and role of women; and
promoting unity amongst women of different ethnic groups and social strata throughout the country.
As the only institution in Laos then formally recognized as having responsibility for advocating for women’s rights and gender concerns, the LWU had a unique opportunity to influence policies, plans and practices of both government and non-government organizations with respect to the needs and status of women in Lao PDR.
In January 2006, the first women's shelter in Lao PDR was officially opened in Vientiane. The name of this shelter is the Lao Women’s Union Counseling and Protection Center for Women and Children. The shelter was made possible through the dedicated work of the Lao Women’s Union, the Lao Government who donated a plot of land for this shelter, UNICEF, the Asia Foundation, and the Japanese Embassy.
The shelter can house up to 50 women and girls who are the victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and trafficking, or are abandoned or homeless. The shelter also has a vocational center that trains the women and girls living in the shelter on new job skills, such as handicrafts, sewing, and basic business management.
Asia Foundation’s Involvement
The Asia Foundation provided technical assistance to the Lao Women's Union (LWU) to draft a comprehensive women's rights bill, passed in 2004, with components to combat human trafficking. Foundation assistance included supporting national surveys to generate support for the bill, translating relevant foreign laws and international standards, facilitating public hearings, and organizing study tours to expose the LWU to other nations' legal reform processes.
The LWU also promotes educational activities that contribute to the eradication of illiteracy, in order to achieve gender equality and the emancipation of women.
UNIFEM support for the women of Laos has led to the creation of the country’s first national machinery for women. The National Commission for the Advancement of Women in Lao (NCAW Lao), formally approved by the Prime Minister in early 2002, will be the focal point for gender mainstreaming in government. It will work alongside the Lao Women’s Union, a mass organization that supports women across the country as well as with government line ministries in Laos.
UNIFEM’s involvement with the LWU spans 13 years (1990-2003) starting with support for Lao Cotton, the marketing arm for cotton and silk garments produced by women. Sensing new opportunities in 1991, UNIFEM started the first of two projects to strengthen the LWU’s capacity as an advocate for women’s issues, to influence policies and programmes of the government. In preparation for the drafting of the first Development Plan for Women, training workshops were held in 1994.See more