Enhancing Communication and Strengthening Protection for Women from violence in Lao PDR

Over 30% of ever-partnered women in the Lao PDR have experienced at least one of the three types of violence, including physical, sexual and psychological. However, less than 2 per cent of women will report violence to the authorities.
To encourage and facilitate access to justice for survivors of violence, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Lao Women’s Union (LWU) co-hosted a workshop in Vang Vieng in mid-July to develop a strategy for communication and community outreach, following the models of Communication for Development (C4D) and communication for social and behaviour change communication (CSBC).
Attended by 27 officials from 12 departments of the LWU, this workshop was the culmination of audience research conducted in Bokeo, Savannakhet, Champassak, and Khammuan Provinces in 2021 and 2022, including women and men from rural communities on their experiences and perceptions on violence against women.
Ms. Soukphaphone Phanith, Director General of Planning and International Cooperation Department, highlighted from the outset that “effective communication and community outreach is critical to not only raise awareness among people and communities on women’s rights to be protected from violence, but also to create a society that will encourage women to seek justice and end violence against women once and for all. The strategy that will guide the Lao Women’s Union on this work is essential to both protect women and advance community development.”
Participants were familiarized with the Steps of Change, a behaviour change model developed by Dr. Barbara A. K. Franklin, international expert working under the Khan Hom Project, to analyse the results from the audience research. During the workshop, the participants presented about how they could adapt the model to Lao women’s society. Ms. Vongakone Phengdalith, Deputy Director General of Organization and Personnel Department, LWU, shared that “using the Steps of Change, we could see that the first barrier is at the level of awareness and knowledge: survivors do not know with whom to talk about this problem, nor where to reach out”. Ms. Phengdalith added: “Secondly, at the attitude step, they are embarrassed to tell others and afraid of the consequences, coming from a culture that teaches women to be under men’s control. Through effective communication and outreach, we can help women to know how to seek help and create a society that does not shame women who experience violence.”
Participants then used the analysis as the basis to go through the process of planning a communication strategy. Working in teams, LWU officials collectively agreed on the communication objective and then the communication channels, key messages, and materials to achieve the objective. On the final day, participants reviewed the communications strategy for endorsement and discussed actions required for implementation of the strategy, including on engaging with media and using other forms of digital media more effectively.
At the end of the workshop, the LWU teams had a deeper understanding of the importance of communications and outreach in protecting women from violence, and began the early steps in integrating these new approaches into their everyday work. The journey doesn’t end here as UNDP and LWU will continue to develop the strategy and providing further capacity development support to the LWU teams in implementing the strategy and working better across the different teams: “The next steps will be to plan for implementation, including developing materials for the two approaches to communication: informational advocacy campaigns and community outreach,” said Ms. Sarah Tae, Gender Programme Specialist and Project Manager of the Khan Hom Project for UNDP, “UNDP, with the support from KOICA, is committed to continue providing support to the LWU throughout this process, concretely through a training to trainers to transmit the required skills and techniques nationwide.”
Through the Khan Hom Project supported by KOICA, UNDP aims to ensure access to justice for survivors of violence by strengthening capacity of the justice sector to provide consistent and quality services to prevent and respond to violence against women and the LWU to empower women and survivors of violence to speak out against violence.

Source: Lao News Agency