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Noi Chias: Metta’s Journey 

Sixteen years ago, after graduating from university Metta Khamthavone, a transgender woman, joined CHias.  At CHias she found a workplace whose values align with her ideal aims for the LGBTQI community in Laos. Here she helped to manage several projects through the years, including Voice’s. All have enabled her to be challenged, improve, and most importantly, it has allowed her to engage directly with the LGBTQI community and assist those who face discrimination.  

From a very young age, Metta intended to prove to Lao society that her abilities should not be restricted or hindered by how she dresses or appears.  

Metta took the position of provincial coordinator for the Voice project in Champasack province and her skills and experiences have greatly aided her in leading and contributing to Voice projects in recent years.  

Voice has given me the privilege of leading LGBTQI colleagues and rightsholders utilizing my years of expertise. Every day, I am driven because I know I will get up to listen to, assist, and support people in need since, as someone who has been discriminated against and marginalized by society, I understand how they may feel right now” – Metta.  

Metta mentions that the level of acceptance from family and community members has been the most crucial for LGBTQI people in the community because most Lao parents and community members do not understand sexual diversity.  LGBTQI children in a family do not usually receive equal support from their families as do other children and after growing up transgender men and women, face violence in school and community because of their gender identity. The attainment of ‘acceptance and support’ from government sectors could ensure that LGBTQI people have the same right and opportunity to access social services as other Lao citizens, therefore building understanding and acceptance from government sectors is a key component of CHias activities in order to create a more supportive environment for the LGBTQI community.  

Speaking about the support received from Voice project and the impact it had had generated in the LGBTGI community, Metta added that,  

Voice Influencing grant funded CHias’ efforts to raise awareness of SOGIES in the community, especially among families, in order to reduce stigma and discrimination against LGBTQI people. In three provinces, we also arranged advocacy meetings with government sectors and local authorities to ask for help from various government sectors for the LGBTQI community and to ensure that the LGBT community receives equal support from both the government and the community.” 

Through the project implementing period, Metta was impressed by the component of Voice linking and learning because it allowed all Voice grantees to learn/share with one another. She also added that CHias uses this component to link and learn with their work partners in order to exchange, document ideas and suggestions from government sectors, particularly healthcare for HIV services. Apart from that, the Voice annual linking and learning was an event that the CHias team and grantees looked forward to each project year in order to meet and have fun while learning. Grantees and other LGBTQI organizations/CSOs have profited greatly from CHias’ Voice-funded project’s networks. Staff ability to write reports, as well as online and offline facilitation skills, have significantly improved. 

In the three target provinces, LGBTQI individuals enjoy a more welcoming atmosphere and have access to more information about healthcare, SOGIES, and gender recognition due to peer educators. Many initiatives were carried out at the community level to help LGBTQI persons in terms of parental acceptance and understanding, and LGBTQI people are now more accepted by their families and communities. 

In addition, the government sector is becoming more aware of and accepting of gender diversity, as evidenced by advocacy meetings held in three provinces. At these meetings, the government sector contributed many ideas and suggestions to the project in terms of assisting LGBT people in obtaining healthcare, particularly HIV services. Furthermore, the Voice project contributes to the development of a national HIV services strategy in order to improve the quality of services for LGBT people and, in particular, transgender people. As a result of a huge amount of work, CHias have a big achievement from a lot of advocacy activities that show outcomes by changing an HIV services strategy for MSM/TG. Since 2019, the government has agreed to a new approach for dividing HIV healthcare packages for MSM and TG. 

*SOGIE is sexual orientation and gender identity and expression LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender


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