Laos: entrepreneurship training for young women from ethnic minorities

26 September 2023

Supporting the economic integration of young women from ethnic minorities in northern Laos: this is the challenge that Action Education has been taking up over the last two years through entrepreneurship training.

In Laos, the World Bank notes a "serious skills deficit" and highlights the gap between the skills of the workforce and the needs of employers.

The province of Oudomxay is one of Action Education Laos' support areas. It is located in the north of Laos, 85% of which is mountainous, and has a population of around 260,000. There are 14 different ethnic groups and 88% of the population work in agriculture.

There are only a few vocational training schools located in the main towns. These training courses do not meet the demand for skills outside sewing, beauty salons and construction.

In addition, many people are unable to access these courses, particularly young women from ethnic minorities, due to distance, poverty and lack of interest.

A tried and tested model

Action Education's project aims to offer training in rural areas where people do not have access to it.

The target project 1000 young disadvantaged women aged between 15 and 35 from rural areas and mainly from ethnic minorities. The aim of the project is to strengthen their skills needed for entrepreneurship and employment. And encourage them to come up with innovative ideas to help develop their communities.

The project makes good use of the lessons learned from Action Education's iLEAD model, which has been developed in many countries. Each course must demonstrate its sustainability and relevance to the target groups it intends to reach. Course arrangements are determined in consultation with the local authorities (appropriate locations, timetables, etc.).

By the end of the first year (2022), 15 businesses had been created!

Pride and entrepreneurship

Phonexay, 32 years oldShe lives in the village of Lak10 and works as a market gardener to earn a living. She attended an entrepreneurship training course run by Action Education in 2022 and received funding to set up her own business.

Here's what she has to say:

"When I heard that there was a training programme to promote entrepreneurship among women, I didn't hesitate! As a woman who has become an entrepreneur, I'm very proud to be able to support myself and contribute to my family's income! After taking the training, I developed my business and my income from growing vegetables increased by around 2 million Kip (around 120 USD). I sincerely thank the project, which has inspired many women in our community to set up their own businesses.

Portrait of a woman LAO14 female entrepreneurship project

Sy, aged 31lives in the village of Beng, also in the province of Oudomxay. She has just completed a training course in natural dyes, with a view to promoting local crafts:

"I was fascinated to see the types of vibrant colours that could be achieved using these natural dyes. We learnt various techniques, including different dyeing methods, colour mixing and pattern creation. This training has opened doors for us, enabling us to generate income, provide for our families and contribute to the growth of our community.

Not only has this training enabled us to acquire valuable skills, but it has also instilled in us a sense of responsibility towards our customers. a sense of pride and appreciation of our cultural heritage. It reminded us of the importance of preserving traditional techniques and passing them on to future generations. Thanks to this training, we've been able to reconnect with our roots and showcase the beauty of our local crafts".

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