Linking and learning together with Oxfam in Laos
by Soudachin Soutthida, co-founder, DSDT, Dalasack Yordchalern, Youth Mental Health Advocate, WECARE, and Boualaphan Phonesavanh, Linking, Learning, and AAmplifier Officer, Voice in Laos
The learning exchange on digital space, led by the Lao CSO Coordination Office (LCCO) and Oxfam in Laos under the Civic Space II project, was held on April 7, 2023, in Vang Vieng, Lao PDR. The workshop aimed to facilitate exchanges between civil society organisations (CSOs) in Laos using the digital space, especially social media, to support their work. This workshop provided space for more than 45 CSOs as well as several informal groups, the Lao Youth Union, and social enterprises.
As this project is implemented under the Civic Space Program where Voice is affiliated, the Voice Laos team envisioned the importance of synergies amongst the program team. The team also saw it as a great opportunity to have Voice grantee partners participate in the intervention. Hence, they invited the Don’t Stop Dream Team (DSDT), Skillbender, and WECARE. They are grantee partners who are utilising social media in their project implementation to exchange knowledge, lessons learned, challenges and good practices for using the social media platform properly and effectively.
In the event, Soudachin Soutthida, the co-founder of DSDT and leading the activities regarding the use of social media in influencing and instilling vital soft skills in the youth, expressed her impressions of the event:
“I would like to express my sincere thanks to Voice Laos for inviting us, an informal group, to have a chance to join this high-level training; this helps us understand better about the use of social media and digital space at the policy level.”
She also indicated the importance of producing social media materials with caution, “The discussion we had during the training has made me realise how crucial it is to always be cautious when producing any media material. I have received and shared with the team several items, such as relevant laws and regulations to pay attention to when producing social media materials, communication ethics and consent.”
She further reflected within her team that there are several points to focus on prior to publishing any items to the social media platforms. “From now on, we will be more mindful before posting anything on social media; we will carefully check the words, photos, and videos to ensure that such materials are aligned with the policy of Lao PDR. More importantly, we will try our best come up with content from which society can benefit the most.”
Dalasack Yordchalern, the Youth Mental Health advocate from WECARE, a NOW-Us Awards winner, considered this as a valuable opportunity for youth advocates. “This training provided us the foundation to perceive clearer lens in terms of utilising social media for youth, especially in mental health advocacy. I had a chance to join in the group discussion with the members of civil society organisations and government counterparts to share the vision towards the utilisation of digital media for the project implementation, especially the relevant laws and regulations enacted on the communication and how we can have the safe digital space which WECARE have been advocating for.” At the moment, WECARE have created the group so called “We care about you Laos” with the more than 1,100 members.
She further reflected that she would utilise what she had learned in the training on her own work.
“We will apply the knowledge we have obtained in this training to our project implementation. Especially in mental health advocacy which is a sensitive topic in the context of Lao PDR.”
This was an opportune time where the synergies between Voice and the country office took place, bringing the grantee partners beyond the local Voice community, hoping it could benefit them in terms of strengthening their relationship with other stakeholders. It was also a productive space where they could learn around a topic that they directly deal with. It was helpful in providing crucial knowledge that could benefit them and the rightsholders they are working with.