(The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on March 7th brought 5 highly successful women to the American Center at That Dam to talk with students about the choices they made in their careers.
The event was a campaign by the United Nations in Lao PDR to celebrate International Women’s Day and aimed to inspire young people through discussions with five successful working women who gave them ideas on how to succeed in their own future careers.
Nowadays, young women can choose from so many different career paths, but how do you choose? Students from several different schools and colleges joined in the panel discussion: “Women – Make the choice of your life”.
Role models from different jobs were features including U.S Ambassador to Lao PDR Rena Bitter who walked the diplomatic path, a career choice where women are still a minority, Ms. Manyla Souvanhduan (Kai Overdance) who talked about her experience in the entertainment industry and what it has taught her about managing and achieving success, and Ms. Somvone Siaphay, the first woman in banking in Lao PDR who also received a prestigious compliance award talked about her experience working in the male dominated banking world.
In addition, Ms. Mayouly Phanouvong, who chose an exceptional sport for women, namely boxing, and is now training hundreds of girls in this sport, and Ms. Phouthone Chanthalangsy, a midwife and campaigner that all babies born in Lao PDR are delivered safely.
In short, UNFPA brought together a broad and diverse range of successful working women highlighting their respective working lives, and emphasizing the challenges and opportunities they have faced because of their gender.
Women’s participation in the labour market has increased tremendously, obstacles diminished and choices improved. In Lao PDR, the female labor force participation rate has reached 79%, almost equal to the male labor force participation rate of 81%. However, wage discrimination continues to affect working women. On average, women’s monthly wages are only two-thirds of their male counterparts.
This phenomenon of wage discrimination affects women world-wide and emphasizes the need to keep fighting for equal rights for men and women. Women’s Day historically is meant to draw attention to ending gender discrimination, and to promoting equality between men and women, be it in the economic, social or political sphere.
This year’s global theme is “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”.
The world of work is changing tremendously: more robots take over simple work, labourers need more skills to manage machines and to oversee complicated production processes; agricultural jobs are decreasing and are considered unattractive to young people; job security is decreasing and many fixed contracts are replaced by flexible contracts; and more and more women are engaging in part-time jobs. On the one hand, this offers women opportunities to combine their professional careers with their care-giver roles, but on the other hand, it leaves the impression that men can still forego their family responsibilities.
This changing world of work also means that young people must be better prepared; they need to make tough choices in pursuing education and getting appropriate skills while balancing their family planning options. How to be best prepared their working future was the central theme of the dialogue with the students.
“Only through education can women unlock their full potential,” said U.S Ambassador to Lao PDR Rena Bitter.
Among the other quotes from panelists, Ms. Manyla Souvanhduan said, “We don’t have to be the best, but we have to do the best we can”.
“Judo doesn’t just generate income for my family, but it makes my family proud and I will train the future national team,” said Mayouly Phanouvong.
“Success in life can be achieved by having a plan, following the plan and being patient,” said Ms. Somvone Siaphay.
“As a midwife I am proud of my job helping to save the lives of babies and mothers and transferring that knowledge to the country’s future midwifes,” said Ms. Phouthone Chanthalangsy.
“Women need to think of economic independence from an early age onwards so that they can make life choices that suit them best,” said UNFPA Representative Frederika Meijer.
The Lao Social Indicator Survey shows that 42,000 adolescent girls never attended school and 91,662 girls aged 6-16 years have dropped out of school. Girls out of school tend to marry younger and have children at a younger age. They are also more likely to stay at home and become unpaid family workers.
Ms. Meijer added, “Let’s make sure that girls go to school, stay in school and get a quality education so that they are prepared for the future world of work.”
Source: Lao News Agency