Press Release

Panel discussion on future career choices and opportunities for young students

7 March 2017

On the eve of women’s day UNFPA brought together 5 highly successful women to talk with students about the choices they made in their careers.

Nowadays, many young women can choose so many career paths, but how to do this? Students from different schools and colleges joined a panel discussion “Women – Make the choice of your life” at the American Center @ That Dam.

The event was part of the United Nations in Lao PDR campaigns to celebrate International Women’s Day. The event aimed to inspire young people through a discussion with five successful working women, who gave them ideas to succeed in their future career.

The role models in different jobs were: H.E Rena Bitter, U.S Ambassador to Lao PDR who walked the diplomatic path, a career choice where women are still a minority. Kai Overdance (Ms. Manyla Souvanhduan) talked about her experience in the entertainment industry and what it has taught her to manage and achieve success. Ms. Somvone Siaphay, the first banking woman in Lao PDR who received a prestigious compliance award, talked about her working experience in the male dominated banking world. Ms. Mayouly Phanouvong, chose for an exceptional sport for women, namely boxing, and is now training hundreds of girls in this sport. And Ms. Phouthone Chanthalangsy, a midwife and a fighter so that all babies are safely delivered in Lao PDR.

In short, UNFPA brought together a broad and diverse range of successful working women highlighting their respective working lives, emphasizing challenges and opportunities because of their gender.  

Women’s participation in the labour market increased tremendously, obstacles diminished and choices improved. In Lao PDR the female labor force participation rate reaches 79% (almost equal to male labor force participation rate, 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 urgency to keep fighting for equal rights between men and women. Women’s day historically is meant to draw attention to ending gender discrimination, and to promote equality between men and women, be it in the economic sphere, social or political.  

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 young people do not consider them attractive; job security is decreasing and many fixed contracts are replaced by flexible contracts; more and more women are engaging in part-time jobs. On 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 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 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.

H.E Rena Bitter, U.S Ambassador to Lao PDR said: “Only through education can women unlock their full potential “

And more quotes from the panelists, Ms. Manyla Souvanhduan said: “We don’t have to be the best for everyone, but we have to do the best we can”.

Ms. Mayouly Phanouvong said: “Judo doesn’t just generate income for my family but it makes my family proud and I can train the future national team”

Ms. Somvone Siaphay said: “Success in life can be achieved by having a plan, following the plan and being patient”

Ms. Phouthone Chanthalangsy said: “As a midwife I am proud of my job to help save babies and mothers’ life and to transfer the knowledge to the country’s future midwifes”

Ms. Frederika Meijer, UNFPA Representative said: “women need to think of their economic independence from an early age onwards so that they can make the life choices that suit them best”

The Lao Social Indicator Survey shows that 42,000 adolescent girls never attend school and 91,662 of 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 at the closing: “let’s make sure that girls go to school, stay in school and have quality education so that they are prepared for the future world of work.



For more information please contact:

Ms. Kay amphone, Communications Associate – UNFPA Lao PDR

Tel: +856 21 315547

Fax: +856 21 31353051