Opening the doors to new livelihoods

Moukdavanh presents a blouse that she recently made in the tailoring course at the newly opened Livelihood Support Centre in Saravan. Photo: Katia Gruetter/UNDP Lao PDR

Saravan, 11 July 2017 – The buzzing of many voices fills the room as visitors are squeezing past each other to catch a glimpse of the vocational training students at work. Seemingly undisturbed by the onlookers’ scrutiny, Moukdavanh moves her hands swiftly across the paper, drawing little marks with a pencil here and there, sometimes pausing before the next stroke. “I am drawing the sewing pattern for my next blouse,” she says excitedly. “And these are the shirts I have made so far,” she adds, pointing towards a rack of colourful and neatly draped clothes. The wide smile on her face indicates the pride she takes in learning the craft of tailoring.

Moukdavanh, as many other locals, is witnessing the official opening of the new Livelihood Support Centre in Saravan – the first of two inaugural events, with the induction of another new training centre happening in the remote Ta Oy District later in the day. The new centres give rural communities, especially women, an opportunity to develop their vocational skills, thus giving them new and better ways of supporting their families. The inauguration sets a milestone for inclusive, community-led development, as these institutions were established with the active participation of community members.

Establishing these Livelihoods Support Centres was made possible by a project that promotes the development of inclusive and sustainable communities, implemented by the Lao Women’s Union and UNDP, supported by the Republic of Korea. The project aims to enhance access to public services, information, knowledge and skills for the rural population. In the long run, these services enable rural communities to lift themselves out of poverty. “Our work does not end with the launch of these new centres”, UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Mr. Balasubramaniam Murali emphasises. “We strive to continue our collaboration with the Lao Women’s Union on this matter, because this partnership has the potential to deliver immense benefits to rural communities, especially women, in Lao PDR.”

The project has been active since 2015 in ten target villages across Saravan Province in southern Lao PDR. It is based on a global initiative for community-led development that was pioneered by the Republic of Korea and tackles the increasing urban-rural gap and the rising inequalities that result from this trend. In Lao PDR, the poverty rate in rural areas is 2.9 times that of the urban areas, a figure that the country addresses with its commitment to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 on eradicating poverty and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities by 2030. Beyond that, this project also targets SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls by specifically providing opportunities for rural women to generate a steady income.

The new Livelihood Support Centres offer tailoring, weaving and cooking courses and accommodate an information room where locals have access to computers and internet. ”With the support and information they receive in these centres, women in Saravan Province have the chance to develop their skills and work towards a secure vocation and better income, which will help them improve their own and their family’s life,” the President of Lao Women’s Union, Mme. Inlavan Keobounphanh explains. The Lao Women’s Union oversees and manages the centres locally.  

Enabling access to knowledge and vocational skills to rural communities is an investment in a sustainable and secure future. Moukdavanh’s story shows that the knowledge she acquires in the training centre can not only help her gain financial stability but has the potential to become a tool for development and growth of her entire community: “Once I finish this tailoring course, I can generate an income for myself and my family. But even more so, I would like to keep learning and developing myself, until one day, I can pass my skills on to others.” 

Ribbon cutting Ta-oy_webThe ribbon is cut at the new Livelihood Support Centre in Ta Oy District: The vocational training rooms are visible in the background. Photo: Katia Gruetter/UNDP Lao PDR