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22 - 25 February 2022, Champasak province - Lao Women’s Union (LWU) staff deals daily with matters of gender equality and gender-based violence (GBV), but with capacity building from UNFPA GBV experts, they are better prepared to provide solutions! We already knew a lot of the theory behind sex, gender and GBV, but the activities and case studies have helped me to better understand how to practically apply these in the community”, says Ms. Ankeo Khamvongsa, Head of Protection Unit of LWU Vientiane Capital. LWU provides protection and assistance for survivors of violence, and is innovating to provide counseling to survivors at the provincial level, through mobile counseling. 


UNFPA developed a training manual to strengthen GBV prevention, response and outreach services provided by LWU in the community. With financial support from SDC, UNFPA piloted this training manual with 23 LWU staff (20 females, 3 males) from Vientiane capital, Attapeu, Savannakhet and Champasak during 22-25 February. Participants were sensitised to conceptual frameworks of power relations, mental health and psychosocial support principles and skills, referral pathways, and engaging men and boys in outreach activities. 


After 2 years of providing mostly remote counseling through national hotlines operating 24/7 during COVID-19, LWU is now preparing to increase in-person outreach activities and mobile counseling in remote villages. Mobile and outreach activities are critical, as survivors in the village can experience challenges in accessing GBV services, may not know what GBV services are available, often do not have technology or transport options, or do not feel supported or empowered to leave a violent situation.  “Providing mobile counseling means that everyone in Savannakhet can access mental health support”, said Ms. Viengsamone Phathipuk, Supervisor of the Savannakhet Protection Shelter, “and we will also use this opportunity to provide information about GBV law to increase awareness amongst village communities”.


The capacity building aims to 1) to increase skills and knowledge of LWU personnel and 2) provide them with the tools to engage community members through outreach activities. Mr. Phokham Chanthasone, Deputy Head of the Protection Unit of LWU Vientiane Capital, explained how the training had “been a very good experience for me as a man”, as it unpacked how gender inequality is the root cause of GBV, and how he can help to change this as a male ally. 

LWU staff were also sensitised to newer manifestations of GBV, such as technology-facilitated GBV and Sexual Exploitation & Abuse (SEA) within the aid sector, so that they would be able to identify and provide assistance to victim-survivors. A participant from Attapeu LWU explained that through this training, now I understand the power differentials that lead to SEA”.

The training manual aligns with relevant international guidelines and standards, including the Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence, Inter-Agency Standing Committee Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, and Guidelines for Mobile Gender-Based Violence Service Delivery. Vice-President of LWU Champasak commented on the value of having international guidance: “International standards are very helpful because we understand the principles in providing assistance to survivors of violence, especially that their safety is priority, and how to provide a survivor-centred approach.” She went on to comment that even though she has attended many trainings on the different types of GBV, she had learned something new in this training! “Technology-facilitated violence is a very new concept to me and I will disseminate this knowledge in the community”. 


UNFPA, the UN's sexual and reproductive health agency, works in over 150 countries including Lao PDR, to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning and zero gender-based.

For more information please contact:

Ms. Sisouvanh Vorabouth, Programme Gender Analyst, UNFPA Laos



Ms. Vanly Lorkuangming, Communications and Partnership Analyst, UNFPA Laos