Oct 6, 2015 | uncategorised

Ms Singkham Vilayphan a tailor from Phoukoud, in Xiengkhouang Province, Laos talks to APHEDA’s Laos Project Officer about the important role the Lao Women’s Union (LWU) has played in her work and in promoting her status and role in her community.

Case study: Ms Singkham Vilayphan a tailor from Phoukoud, in Xiengkhouang Province, Laos

Singkham is a 28 year old Lao woman who lives in a small village in the hills 30km from Phonsavanh, the capital of Xiengkhouang Province, North-East of Vientiane. Growing up with farming parents she completed 5 years at secondary school then made her way to Vientiane to work in a garment factory.

“It was very hard work and long hours, sometimes working all night for only USD150/month”

Despite the hard work this is where Singkham met her husband Atthasone who was working in a neighbouring garment factory. After they married they migrated to Thailand to work in the garment industry. Even though they had a higher income than back home in Laos the cost of living was greater and they were no better off. Falling pregnant in their third year in Thailand Ms Singkham and Atthasone decided to go back to her home village.

Lao Women’s Union – Responding to women’s development needs

Back homeMs Singkham Vilayphan-1 they built their home, Atthasone worked in construction and Singkham worked weaving, a strong tradition in Laos. At the time their total income was about $100 per month.

When she heard about the tailoring course offered by the Lao Women’s Union (LWU), she immediately applied. As soon as she was
accepted in the course she sold one of her piglets to pay for transport to the training centre in Phonsavanh. In the last 4 months of 2013 Singkham learnt how to make patterns inclusing several types of women’s shirts and the traditional lao skirt, called sinh.

Before she had finished the course, Singkham opened a small shop in her own house. She practiced at night what she had learnt during the day. When the training was over, she took a loan of $200 offered by the program to buy a sewing machine and started business. In the first few months she didn’t have many customers she only earnt $120/month, but within a year and a half she was earning up to $400/month. She now take on trainees who pay a fee to learn from her.

Atthasone still works in construction, but when he has no work, he helps Singkham. Happy with her career she is able to help her extended family and improve their house.

“Life has improved a lot!”

Promoting the status and role of women

APHEDA’s work in Laos and the region has long focused on supporting women gain new skills and make best use of the limited business opportunities in rural areas. Singkham’s story shows that this can be a very successful strategy in helping these women have status and important roles in their communities. We will keep working with the LWU to improve the delivery of vocational training for women.

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA’s Regional ProgramMs Singkham Vilayphan-3

However, the regional situation is evolving very fast in Laos, APHEDA’s regional program is trying to address issues such as: increasing minimum wage; better working conditions, particularly for women; and migration for work which results in migrant workers working undocumented and informaly in low wage jobs in the service and manufacturing industries. APHEDA will be:

  • supporting the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) to better engage with and organise workers in the private sector, which is still a very new phenomenon. Over the next 2 years, we will support the LFTU build their capacity in 5 key Provinces with higher levels of industrialisation.
  • working with trade unions in the region to better understands the dynamics of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) on migration and conditions for workers, especially in the garment industry.

IMAGES: Ms Singkham Vilayphan at work and with family, her husband Atthasone and 8 year old son, Boua-Ngern. Photo: Karine Laroche, APHEDA Vietnam/Cambodia/laos Project Officer.

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