Laying the Groundwork for Citizen-Centered Governance in Laos

In Laos, IRI trained and mentored civic leaders who went on to become influential advocates for the rights of PWDs. Civic leaders and non-profit associations face burdensome regulations around registration and financing, which hampers their operations and limits civic engagement. To prepare for responsive, citizen-centered governance in Laos, IRI supports the development of a resilient civil society that represents citizen demands and elevates the voices of marginalized communities, especially at the local level. IRI is building the capacity of civic leaders, including those with disabilities, to become advocates for their peers.

At least 35 civic leaders who participated in IRI-supported training and workshops on advocacy and communication used their skills to organize across Laos. With IRI’s support, Quality of Life Association, a Laotian non-profit organization, trained a group of village representatives from the Kham District to identify and understand the needs of PWDs and identify barriers to their full integration into Laotian society. One civic leader with a disability, Ms. Bouavieng Phanousy, who participated in the training, was appointed to the Kham District’s Disability Inclusion Committee, leveraging the skills gained during IRI-supported training to secure her appointment. In her committee work, she used her skills to advocate for the rights of PWDs in her own village, as well as surrounding villages, securing important wins such as direct acknowledgement from her district’s Labor and Social Welfare Office for her efforts and raising awareness among citizens and local government leaders about the challenges PWDs face in Laos.

Today she is assisting 26 PWDs and their families come up with solutions to the challenges they encounter in their daily lives. Ms. Phanousy is also advising the district’s Office of Education and Sports on disability inclusion practices in four primary schools and receives frequent invitations from the Kham District’s labor and social welfare offices to share her expertise and experience at village-level meetings. As a result of her successful advocacy, district-level government officials continue to involve civic leaders as liaisons between government stakeholders and PWDs, sustaining improvements made in the relationship between local government and civil society.

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