German Embassy, European Chamber of Commerce Co-host Women in Arts, Business Panel

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(Photo: ECCIL)

German ambassador to Laos, Annette Knobloch, and Thiane Khamvongsa, Executive Director of the European Chamber of Commerce and Industry, hosted a celebration for International Women’s Day on 20 March, inviting a hundred women from arts and business fields.

The event, hosted by the German Embassy, kicks off the series of panel talks and mentoring sessions of the “Empower Women” program led by ECCIL EuroCham and supported by Team Europe in Laos, which aims to contribute to gender equality and women empowerment in the area of private sector development.

(Photo: ECCIL)

This first event was held under the color pink, and the theme revolved around women in the field of arts and entrepreneurship in the art market. 

In her opening remarks, Knobloch shared with the audience that it was an honor that the kick-off event of this new format “Empowering Women” with ECCIL EuroCham was taking place at the German Embassy.

She said “feminism is an issue that has divided societies, political parties, men and women for decades” and that to “accelerate the processes of equality and gender justice, regulatory measures by the state are key – at least temporarily, until equality and gender justice have been accomplished. This includes measures to raise awareness or events around the 8th of March that remind us what we still need to do in which countries and in which areas when it comes to equality and gender justice.”

It is the 3rd collaboration of the German Embassy and ECCIL on this topic around women and arts. A 1st panel breakfast talk was organized at ECCIL EuroCham in May 2023, on the topic of “Empowering Women in Business” to which Annette Knobloch, was moderator. In December 2023, the opening event of the “Itinerant Performing Arts Festival” to which Thiane Khamvongsa is the director took place at the German Embassy. 

Khamvongsa explained that “the objective of this type of event is to give woman executives, entrepreneurs, artists, the opportunity to fellowship with their peers in diverse fields, to promote the image of the working woman as leaders, as well as the general welfare of their business and professional community.”

She further added “It is for us to create an environment where issues can openly be discussed and can foster dialogue for women in the community. We are aiming to create a new way to support women entrepreneurs in Lao PDR to grow and strengthen their businesses, skills and confidence. Like-minded professional women work together to overcome challenges.”

On stage Khamvongsa was joined by four panelists from different disciplines, and questioned them on their journey as a women artist and entrepreneur in art in Laos, in their specific discipline of art and more specifically on how being a woman within the arts field has affected their career. She also inquired about their opinion on what could be done to improve the conditions and environment for women in arts in Lao PDR, as well as their advice for younger generation of women.

(Photo: ECCIL)

The first panelist, Mattie Do, a famous Lao American film director and producer who is a prominent figure in Lao cinema and who has achieved international success and recognition, talked about the struggle to be recognized as a female artist in a male dominated discipline.

The second panelist, Livanna Koo, a young fashion designer and founder of FEMEI and XYZ art and culture center, a social enterprise that has a mission to provide support and promote the emerging artists in Laos, pled for young artist to be supported, educated, and trained, in their art but also in entrepreneurship, so that they will have a chance to survive in a very difficult market.

The third panelist was Maykham Liyang, a performer and company director, who started her long-standing career as a child acrobat in the circus. While sharing her journey with the audience, she explained how she defied an unsupportive gaze from society to achieve her dreams, and how she is still performing and co-managing, in what is probably the most famous and active theater and puppetry group in Lao PDR, the Khao Niew theater group.

The fourth panelist was Misouda Heuangsoukkhoun, an art curator, educator and critic, founder of the Mekong Art Initiative, and the manager of the Lao Gallery. Heuangsoukkhoun explained to the audience how the market for art is more than struggling to emerge. Together, the moderator and panelists discussed at length how to unlock the potential of women in arts in Laos.

The evening ended with networking where the women had the opportunity to connect with their peers to inspire the younger generation of woman artists and to give them hope to persevere in the art field. ECCIL Eurocham will be holding other panel talks and events throughout 2024 at part of the “Empower Women” program.

(Photo: ECCIL)