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Ms Suzanne E. Siskel.

The Asia Foundation promotes gender equality in Laos

The Asia Foundation – a US-based nonprofit international development organisation - will continue to support Lao women to expand their economic opportunities, uphold their rights and enhance their security, and strengthen their political participation.
Speaking at the organisation’s headquarters in San Francisco, California, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The Asia Foundation, Ms Suzanne E. Siskel, observed that by 2024 Laos aims to graduate from Least Developed Country status and become a ‘rule of law state’ by enhancing justice and enabling people’s legal empowerment.
The Asia Foundation office in Vientiane works with local partners and Lao government agencies to improve governance and access to justice for all Lao citizens, advance women’s rights and opportunities, help communities manage development and safeguard their natural environment, increase access to information, and promote Laos’ international cooperation.
From 2015 through 2019, 35 girls from poor and low-income families will receive full scholarships from the Foundation to pursue a degree at the National University of Laos.
“The Asia Foundation practices an integrated approach that promotes gender equality across all programmes, especially in the justice sector,” Ms Siskel said.
Director of the Foundation’s Media and Strategies, Global Communications, Ms Eelynn Sim, explained that expanding women’s economic opportunities involves education, entrepreneurship, and vocational training.
The Foundation provides women with the knowledge and skills they need to earn an income and lift themselves and their families out of poverty, including through scholarships.
In the workplace, the Foundation addresses constraints faced by women entrepreneurs.
“By providing networking opportunities, mentoring, access to information and credit, and business management training, we foster environments where women can advocate for improved policies. We work alongside local partners to provide women with vocational training to break into higher-paid employment sectors,” Ms Sim said.
In addition the Foundation is increasing women’s rights and security by working with individuals and communities to change attitudes and social norms that perpetuate gender-based violence and the exploitation of women and girls.
It engages governments and civil society to strengthen laws, legal systems, and other response mechanisms to increase access to justice and improve service delivery. A leader in the fight against human trafficking, The Asia Foundation has pioneered initiatives to combat trafficking in nearly a dozen source, transit, and destination countries.
“Our broad engagement across Asia uniquely positions us to respond with locally rooted, gender-sensitive, and durable strategies to enhance prevention, prosecution, and protection measures,” Ms Sim explained.
Additionally, in Asia, The Asia Foundation is strongly promoting women’s participation in political and public life.
The Foundation helps women develop skills to be informed voters, active members of political parties, and successful candidates. The Asia Foundation programmes encourage women to engage in political processes and contribute to increased government transparency and accountability.
“We advance women’s rights by working with governments and local partners to support and strengthen legal systems,” she added.
The Asia Foundation equips women with information on their rights and access to free legal aid and strengthens local efforts to reform laws and policies that discriminate.
The Asia Foundation is committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, the Foundation works across the region to address five overarching goals – strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.
The Asia Foundation works through a network of offices in 18 Asian countries and in Washington, DC.
Working with public and private partners, the Foundation receives funding from a diverse group of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, foundations, corporations and individuals.
The Asia Foundation is doing this because Asia continues to face critical issues that threaten the aspirations of billions. Communities remain impacted by the lack of access to justice, by rising inequality, pervasive subnational conflicts, challenges of urbanisation, violence against women, and a closing space for civil society.
• This article is written as part of a reporting tour under the Indo-Pacific project, which is supported by the Foreign Press Centre.

By Xayxana Leukai
(Latest Update August 30, 2019

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