The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), commonly known as Laos, is one of the four Southeast Asian countries where Voice is active. Below follows a short overview of the context, resulting in priorities available in the next tab.
Laos is the only Voice focus country that has a completely closed civic space, according to the Civicus Monitor. This has implications for the role and positioning of civil society, experiencing a complex relationship between the government, emerging civil society organisations (CSOs), and international development partners. CSOs are not independent entities; instead they are considered as government development partners. All media outlets are heavily controlled and monitored by the government, and dissent posts shared on social media can be used as grounds for imprisonment.
Status Quo of Voice Target Groups
According to the context analysis of 2017 here is an short overview of the status quo of each of the five target groups.
People living with disabilities are deprived of fundamental support in various institutions in Laos. Accurate statistics on the number of people with disabilities in the country is non-existent, workplace continues to exclude persons with disabilities in its recruitment process, educational materials are not available, and public infrastructures are not accessible nor friendly toward their needs.
Homosexuality and homosexual acts are legally accepted by the Lao government. There are no constraints with regard to joining highly masculine institutions (such as the military and politics), yet the LGBTI community lack full access and acceptance in public office, media, schools, workplace, and housing.
In society itself, homosexuality is still not accepted and homosexuals are still bound by stereotypical perceptions such as being sex workers (for transgenders) and/or HIV positive. Discrimination and abuse particularly towards transgender women is institutionalised which leads them to engage in risky livelihood practices offering little to no social protection.
Lao women continuously face various forms of exploitation, abuse, and/or violence. They are being silenced in every aspect of their lives. This is evident from the broader legal framework down to practices and beliefs on how women should behave and act in society. There are no legal safeguards for women, and the gap between policy, practice, and participation intensifies their struggle. The notion that ‘men are superior’ prevails which impacts women’s susceptibility to violence, inequality, and abuse.
Age-discriminated groups such as youth have limited access to sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services. Being one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in the region, it severely affects the lives and future of adolescents especially of young girls.
The government of Lao recognises 49 ethnic minorities and four ethno-linguistic families, namely, Lao-Tai, Mon-Khmer, Chinese-Tibetan and Hmong-Mien. Ethic minorities face economic, social and spatial exclusion at varying levels; ethnic women and youth have a particularly hard time.
For the full country summary of Lao’s context analysis, please click here.
Oxfam, coordinating Voice in Laos strives to give all people the opportunity to have a say in policies that help shape their lives and unleash their potential. To this end, Voice in Laos does not have a specific geographical focus, or target group, or impact theme.
Voice in Laos recognises that between and within the marginalised communities in the country, the people being most excluded are those facing overlapping, intersecting vulnerabilities. In this sense, all five groups mentioned below are being prioritised in all Calls for Proposals in Laos, based on the context analysis combined with a workshop with a community of stakeholders:
- People living with disabilities
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender, intersex (LGBTI) people
- Indigenous groups and ethnic minorities
- Women facing exploitation, abuse and/or violence
- Age discriminated vulnerable groups notably the young and elderly
Organisations proposing to work with two or more of the target groups are particularly encouraged to apply as the community of stakeholders recognised a prevalence of overlapping vulnerabilities between and within each of the groups.
In 2018 the context analysis will be updated, taking into account the changing context as well as existing portfolio of projects and grantees.
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