United Nations representative for women's rights has praised the Lao government for the progress it has made in advancing women's rights and promoting gender equality.

Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Programmes of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, Mr John Hendra, spoke to local media on Friday at the UN offices in Laos.


Mr Hendra was in Laos to attend the Asean 10 + 3 Committee on Women meeting in Vientiane, and to discuss the situation of women in Laos with the various parties concerned.

“It is important to recognise the important progress that Laos has made in terms of advancing women's rights and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

Women now comprise 25 percent of National Assembly members. Out of the National Assemblies of the 10 Asean countries, Laos has the second biggest female presence, with women holding the posts of assembly president and chairperson of the assembly's committee for economic affairs.

He then went on to highlight four areas of focus that Laos still needed to work on.

Mr Hendra said the government needed to focus more on the implementation of frameworks and laws, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

In this regard, he suggested the government should collaborate with development partners to develop capacity to ensure more effective implementation.

In addition, to end violence against women, Mr Hendra said the problem needed to be further discussed publicly to raise awareness among males of all ages of the need to join forces to tackle the issue.

He also said it is critical for Laos to focus on achieving all of its Millennium Development Goals, but in particular goal number 3. The target is for the widespread promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, especially where education is concerned.

“There is no greater investment in poverty reduction and development than investment in women's education,” Mr Hendra said.

Finally, he said it is important for Laos to ensure that advances in women's rights and empowerment reach those in rural areas, as they represent the largest portion of the population.

For this to be done, he said that one of the main areas of focus needed to be on bringing women out of vulnerable employment and providing them with secure jobs.

“It is very important to look at economic diversification and how women can fulfil their potential economically. It's good for them, it's good for their families and communities. But it's particularly good for the growth of the country overall.”