26 January 2024

TİKA Supports Women Empowerment in Laos, a Southeast Asian Country

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) has started a Tailoring Course Training program in collaboration with the Lao Women’s Union and provided equipment support to Lao Cotton State Enterprises.

A tailoring course was offered to 20 women throughout 3 months at the Lao Women’s Union Vocational Training Center with TİKA’s support. The 20 women who successfully completed the course, along with their internships, were supplied with a beginner’s kit, comprising a sewing machine, iron, and basic tailoring materials enabling them to produce in the field of clothing.

In another project that TİKA initiated in Laos, the Lao Cotton State Enterprises in the state capital Vientiane were provided with textile manufacturing equipment that is necessary for seasonal and continuous workers to carry out manufacturing processes. Cotton State Enterprises is the only place where souvenirs, clothes and accessories produced with country-specific patterns and materials and marketed under the ‘Lao Cotton’ label, which is mostly crafted by disadvantaged women.

The beginner’s kits were given to 20 women who completed the tailoring training in Vientiane during a ceremony. Orhan Işık, Türkiye’s Ambassador to Vientiane, spoke at the ceremony, expresing his belief that this project, which was put into practice with TİKA’s support, would greatly contribute to women’s empowerment in Laos, and that the importance of such support has fairly increased due to the economic hardships around the world. Işık concluded his words by saying women achieved great success in many areas, emphasizing the great importance of increasing women’s economic independence and security in social life.

Aly Vongnobountham, the Lao Women’s Union President, who holds a ministerial position in Laos, thanked TİKA and Türkiye for their support, and said that contributions were made in supporting women and family economy, that these projects were also supported by the Lao government, and that they made effort to make these projects-in-practice sustainable. Vongnobountham added to her words that she hoped the projects would greatly contribute to the relations between the people of Türkiye and Laos.

Participants who had successfully completed the vocational training courses expressed their feelings and thoughts through letters they wrote.

– A letter from Vang to TİKA

I am Daokham Vang Chongtouvangvangtu, I was born in Thahuea village, Longxan district, Xaisomboun province in 1984. I have seven siblings, and I am the youngest one.

In my childhood, I lived in a rural area with my family. My family dealt with gathering forest produce, agriculture and rice farming. If nature supports the rains seasonally, both low- and high-altitude rice farming yields greatly. However, when drought cripples the yield, and we cannot achieve a sufficient yield that year. For this reason, we used to gather food by searching for it in natural resources, finding the wild produce in the forest, digging out taro and cassava roots. 

I attended primary school in Dom Hom village when I was 8 to 12 years old, and I wanted to attend high school when I was 13 to 16 years old, but the school was way too far from home. Harsh road conditions did not allow commuting by vehicle back then. The only way to reach the school was possible with a boat journey through the river, which took half a day. I wanted to continue my education despite these dire conditions, and that is why my family encouraged me to attend high school. Staying at my relatives’ place, I enrolled in Luangprabang High School. Upon completing my high school education, I went back to my hometown, Longxan district.

I got married after graduating from high school in 2001, and we had 10 children, 7 girls and 3 boys.

My marriage life was tough and lonely. I moved in with my husband’s family after marrying him, leaving my home behind. My husband’s family was poor, and 13 siblings lived together. I gave birth to my first child in 2003. And then to my second child in 2004. Life got harder. My husband was an unpaid volunteer teacher. Seven days after my second child was born, my husband received a state scholarship and was entitled to continue his education in Vientiane. And I had to look after my children and my husband’s family as a bride. Tough life it was, no money, not even for clothes for myself and my children, and there was no rice. I had to search for taro and cassava roots in the forest. And it was perishing cold back then, I had to find wood to get warm and sleep comfortably. Two years later, the day of days came, my husband completed his education, and became a teacher in my hometown, and so, we moved out of my husband’s family’s place. However, my husband was assigned as a teacher to an area far from the village. He decided to move into a teacherage away from the village. It was a heavy responsibility for me to take care of our family living under a single roof. Every year, we had a new baby.

In 2005, I joined the Lao Women’s Union in the village. My life finally started to normalize after joining the Women’s Union. I kept doing rice farming and husbandry. While doing so, I gave birth to my 6th child and twins. But now, everybody in my family is helping each other to raise our children, and they are growing up happily in the countryside.

I want to express my thanks to the Lao Women’s Union for providing the opportunity to participate in this training. I am happy to have participated in this training to acquire a profession. I am striving to learn needlecraft. I will try to obtain beneficial results by putting the information I received from the teachers and students participating the in the training into practice.

I sincerely thank Türkiye and TİKA for supporting the Vocational Training Program and providing our training materials, accommodation, transportation, food allowances, and all other opportunities in this training. I am proud to be one of the people participating in this training, thanks to TİKA’s support.  I have found the chance to improve myself. I will have a profession with all the information and experience I have obtained, and I will generate income for myself and my family. I hope that you continue supporting Laotian women, especially those with disadvantages. I deeply want Laotian women to have their own professions, find jobs, lead better lives, and get out of poverty in time.

– A letter from Yer to TİKA

I am Yer, I was born in Phonesavang village, Vientiane distrcit on August 10, 2008. I belong to the Hmong ethnicity. I live in Houaphanh Phuxay village now. My mother is 45 years old, a farmer in Phuxay village. I have six siblings.

Since my childhood, my family’s main income has been based on agriculture, gardening, fishing and gathering forest produce. Finding food depended on the weather and the season. My family had to work under appropriate weather conditions to yield enough rice every year. If it rained in season, then we had enough rice throughout the year. If it didn’t rain in season, we would not harvest much rice and food would become scarce.

I finished middle school amidst these hard living conditions in Houaphanh. My father, the breadwinner of the household, passed away towards the end of 2018. I undertook the responsibility of taking care of my younger siblings when my older brother went far away to search for a job, and I worked so that I could go to school at the same time. Since the beginning of 2023, my 3 younger siblings and I have been trying to meet our daily needs. When my older brother went far away to get a job, I decided to drop out of school and get a job to buy food for my siblings and try to take care of them, since there was no one there to provide for the family. After a while, my brother found a job in Attapeu, took one of our siblings with him, and started staying at the workplace.

Now, my younger siblings and I live in Phuxay village, and lead our lives by farming, harvesting bamboo and vegetables and fishing. Some days we have a harvest and fill our stomachs, but other days we cannot get a harvest and go hungry. In previous years, we used to have 9 bags of rice from our harvest, but it would not last throughout the year.

I sometimes cave in, thinking about the difficulties in my life. Whenever I think about it, I try to inspire myself looking at my younger siblings’ faces and telling myself that I have to be strong for them, and I have to fight so that I can carry the heavy weight that I am responsible for. I have to fulfill my responsibility to take care of them, being there for them when they are sick and putting in the effort to find food every day.

But I am lucky to have found the chance to be part of a project that helps people living in hard conditions. The Lao Women’s Union provided me with the opportunity to receive training at the Training Center. This is a beautiful opportunity for me to train and improve myself. I hope that I will have a steady career and make money to look after my siblings by sewing clothes. In the meantime, I want to express my gratitude to TİKA for supporting me to participate in this training. I promise that I will use the knowledge I have learned to build my career and lead a better life.

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