Every job is a woman's job

Vientiane, 9 March 2017

The excitement and anticipation of a group of twenty-one students at Vientiane High School were tangible when they finally saw the prints of their photographs spread out on a table in their class. In the context of International Women’s Day 2017, UN Women and the International Labour Organisation ILO had asked them to participate in an awareness-raising project with the topic “All women are working women”. Students went out to take photos around this theme and the resulting images show the full bandwidth of female labor in Lao PDR: Working women on the photos include mothers, nurses, street vendors, and weavers – all of them contributors to the country’s economy.

Photo: UN in Lao PDR

The photos were revealed at the French Institute today by Ms. Viengsouvanh Phaxaysombath, Principal of the Vientiane High School, as part of a UN in Lao PDR event to celebrate International Women’s Day around the topic of women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. “The students understand the importance of International Women’s Day”, she said. “They are aware that their lives are intertwined with the lives of their mothers who work for their families both inside and outside the house.” The event also featured a performance by Lao artist Aluna, who presented four songs with the help of the students, conveying the message that women are independent and strong, and that violence against women cannot be tolerated. 

Photo: UN in Lao PDR

In Lao PDR, female participation in work life is very high, with women representing half of the total labor force. However, more than 64 percent of economically active women and girls are identified as “unpaid family workers”. Mothers often carry a double burden, working long hours during the day as well as caring for their family and managing household chores at night. On average, women earn only two-thirds of what men do, and they are underrepresented in decision-making processes and leading positions. UN Resident Coordinator a.i. Ms. Frederika Meijer took reference to these trends in her keynote speech: “We have made good progress in gender equality, but not yet enough. Women deserve to have their equal share in payment and decision making.” 

Increasing the visibility of unpaid care and domestic work and investing in women’s economic empowerment is a crucial factor in achieving gender equality, eradicating poverty and sustaining economic growth in Lao PDR. Moreover, the high proportion of women in the workforce needs to be matched with equal access to rights in the workplace, fair pay, and adequate working hours for women partaking in the informal sector. Ms. Bundith Prathoumvanh, Vice President of the Lao Women’s Union, underlined in her speech at the UN event that the Lao Women’s Union is striving to ensure that all women in Lao PDR are given equal rights as men.

Equality and economic empowerment starts with choices. Inspiring young women and girls to follow their dreams when it comes to choosing a job was the topic of a panel discussion organised by the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA as a further event around International Women’s Day this week. Every job is a woman’s job, was the message of the panel, featuring famous Lao artist Kai Overdance as well as representatives from government, sports, health care and private sector.  

Photo: UN in Lao PDR

Earlier in the week, at a celebration of the Lao Women’s Union, UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Kaarina Immonen had emphasised that gender equality is intrinsically tied to the country’s graduation from Least Developed Country status, the achievement of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan and the global Sustainable Development Goals. The Lao Women’s Union also organised a Mini-Marathon for Family Health, where the combined physical power of the runners presented a strong reminder that for a healthy family life and a strong Lao economy, female empowerment is key.

Photo: UN in Lao PDR

Photo: UN in Lao PDR

 

Contact Information: 

Ms. Evy Messell, UN Women, 2059393889, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Ms. Khemphone Phaokhamkeo, International Labour Organisation ILO, 2056621760, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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