Asia Foundation Opens First Shelter for Women, Children in Laos (Partnership for a Better Life) (480) The first safe shelter in Laos for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and trafficking opened in January 2006, with support from The Asia Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization devoted to Asia's development.
"The Laos shelter is the culmination of a massive effort in Laos to end violence against women and trafficking crimes and to help women and girls find legitimate, safe jobs," said Carol Yost, director of The Asia Foundation's Women's Empowerment Program.
As one of the poorest countries in the world, Laos consistently ranks among the lowest in education, unemployment, infant mortality and other social and economic indicators. These desperate conditions, along with a lack of resources and public information, create an environment ripe for human trafficking and domestic abuse.
In 2004, The Asia Foundation and the local Lao Women's Union released the first research survey on violence against women in Laos. They found an alarming occurrence of violence against women, a lack of resources for victims and little to no assistance from family members or community groups. The survey finding triggered the first anti-trafficking and domestic violence legislation in the history of the nation, the Development and Protection of Women Act.
In 2005, as a result of this new legislation and recommendations made by the Lao Women's Union and The Asia Foundation, construction of the new shelter began on land donated by the Lao government.
Through the assistance of Give2Asia, a charity founded by The Asia Foundation to promote private philanthropic giving to Asia, The Asia Foundation provided major support for the planning and construction of a shelter featuring long-term housing for as many as 50 women and children; on-staff counselors and trained women's advocates; and an array of wellness services. The UNICEF and the Japanese Embassy in Laos funded the construction of two buildings on the premises.
In order to maintain a high level of protection for its occupants, the shelter, currently comprising three buildings, is located in the outskirts of Vientiane and is surrounded by a security wall. Transportation to the shelter is provided by the Lao Women's Union.
A fourth building, a vocational training center, is being planned with funds from The Asia Foundation and Give2Asia. This training facility -- for both shelter residents and at-risk women and girls -- will offer women new job skills, such as handicrafts, sewing and basic business management. These new skills will empower women to find work, support themselves and establish their freedom from violence. The Asia Foundation works to advance mutual interests in the United States and the Asia-Pacific region. It is funded by contributions from corporations, foundations, individuals and governmental organizations in the United States, Europe and Asia and an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress.
Click on our audio files for Lao translation of the report.