UNFPA, the Australian Government, and the government of Laos held the opening ceremony of the protection shelter for women and children in Bokeo Province on Tuesday.
This will be the third Government-run protection shelter for survivors of violence in the country. It is essential given it is a high-mobility area due to the number of remote communities in the province, the diversity of ethnic groups, and its proximity to the Special Economic Zone and other neighboring countries.
“Bokeo is a province where many women work in restaurants, entertainment venues, and as migrant workers. Therefore, women here have a high chance of being taken advantage of; lied to; lured into sex work, and faced violence,” said Ms. Inlavanh Keobounphanh, President of the Lao Women’s Union.
“Under the Government’s “Three Builds” policy, this shelter will be a place for referrals to other specialized sectors,” she stated during the ceremony.
Protection shelters in Laos temporarily accommodate survivors of violence or those at risk of violence or trafficking, regardless of gender.
In Laos, those seeking shelter are predominantly women and girls (at times women with their children) fleeing violent or exploitative situations. Shelters keep survivors safe from further harm from the perpetrator/s and support them in recovery.
This shelter will offer case management services, including psycho-social support, basic medical assistance, legal support, and follow-up care. In addition, the shelter may provide economic assistance and/or vocational training to equip survivors with the necessary skills to lead independent and empowered lives.
“The protection center for women and children is here to help women and children who are at risk of being victims of violence in all aspects, including violence against children and human trafficking,” said Mr. Khamphaya Phompanya, Bokeo Province’s Vice Governor.
“In addition, it will protect the legitimate rights and interests of women and children and disseminate information on the laws, policies, regulations, and international conventions Laos has ratified to the victims in various forms. Thus, this task is crucial to bring benefits and justice to women and children while contributing to socio-economic development,” he noted.
“UNFPA is supporting Laos to implement nationwide the globally recognized Essential Service Package for Elimination of Violence Against Women. Shelters are a key component. UNFPA and LWU are also focusing on strengthening Social and Health Services for GBV response,” said Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative.
She expressed her appreciation that the Governor provided the site and building for renovation – government ownership and contribution are critical for ensuring sustainable development, while the Australian investment was instrumental in the renovation.
In Laos, for every ten women who experience violence, seven seek no help at all from formal sources, and barely two of those women seek help from any authorities, such as the police, health, or social services. There are many reasons survivors are reluctant to seek help, including lack of knowledge, limited services available, and not having access to a safe space or refuge to seek protection.
“This opening ceremony is a reflection of our commitment to advancing gender equality and ending violence against women and girls in Laos and around the globe. Laos needs strong systems in place to deliver prevention and support services. Australia wants to support the Government and the community to achieve this change,” said Mr. Matthew Banks, First Secretary of the Australian Embassy to Laos.