6 Promote gender equality and empower women

Where we are

Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Harish Murthi

The Lao PDR has made steady progress on its gender equality targets. It is on track to realize parity between boys and girls by 2015. In higher education, however, equality is not as prevalent, falling to 77 girls per 100 boys by the time they reach tertiary education. Women and men account for equal proportions of the total workforce but women, but there is a wage gap between male and female workers. A quarter of the national parliament in 2012 was composed of women, giving the the Lao PDR one of the highest proportions of women in parliament in the region.

The Lao PDR remains primarily a source country for victims of human trafficking. Young women and girls, especially those from economically disadvantaged demographics, may be forced into Thailand’s commercial sex trade or domestic service, garment factories and agricultural industries. Approximately 72% of trafficked children are young girls under 18 years of age. The Government has adopted several laws, regulations and plans to combat trafficking and is a signatory to numerous regional MOUs that seek to prevent, combat and assist human trafficking victims.


Meeting the targets:

Meeting the Goal 3 targets requires a better understanding at all levels of the dynamics that sustain and/or create gender inequalities, as well as targeted policies, strategies, actions and re-prioritized public expenditures. In turn, this requires committed leadership and political will to trigger social change, because gender inequality has been deeply rooted. Establishment of the Lao National Commission for the Advancement in Women (Lao NCAW) provides an excellent opportunity for the Government to consider gender issues across sectors. A need exists to further collect and disseminate data specific to women and men.

Ensuring women have more voice and choice

Lao PDR is highly committed to the promotion of equality between men and women. Its gender strategy, aimed at reducing poverty, is founded on the important role played by Lao women in the society. The effective participation of women, especially poor and ethnic-minority women, is essential for the country to achieve its goals of reducing poverty and improving living standards.

UNDP focuses on advancing equality between women and men, and on promoting women’s empowerment, not only as human rights, but also because they are a pathway to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and securing development that does not harm the environment. Our support rests firmly on the belief that equality between women and men should underpin every aspect of human development: effective governance, poverty reduction, environment and sustainable development, and crisis prevention and recovery.

Despite notable progress by women in Lao PDR, gender inequalities are reflected in lower school enrollment of girls, high maternal mortality and lower representation of women in Government decision making positions, civil service and the judiciary. Yet equality between women and men, and empowerment of women, have large and important “multiplier” effects on economic and human development. 

UNDP makes every effort to ensure that women’s concerns are addressed across all of our programmes, working to ensure that women have a real voice in all governance institutions so they can participate equally with men in public dialogue and decision making. We encourage the development of activities that address the needs of poor women, especially in rural areas. We also cooperate closely with Government Ministries and other United Nations Agencies to identify the most effective ways to promote policies and practices that do not discriminate against women.

Targets for MDG3
  1. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
    • Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
    • Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
    • Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament