“I have never been around so many strong women from the Mekong region.  It’s really inspiring,” are the sentaments expressed by one of the women leaders who gathered in Bangkok, Thailand for IRI Mekong Women’s Policy Dialogue.  Lead by Ambassador Paula Dobrianksy, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, the dialogue brought together women government officials, political party representatives, civil society leaders and issue experts from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to form a regional women’s network that will promote and advocate for the role of women in development throughout the Mekong region.

Delegates develop cross-border policy recommendations during the workshop on infrastructure and connectivity.

Throughout the two-day conference, which was a follow-up to the July 2012 Lower Mekong Initiative Women’s Policy Dialogue, participants engaged in issue-based panel discussions on infrastructure development, environment, public health and education that enabled them to share lessons learned and best practices in each policy area.  A separate discussion allowed the women to identify common challenges and barriers to women’s political participation and to the role of women in development across the region. 

At the end of the dialogue, a delegate from Laos noted, “It was empowering to be with women from the region who are going through the same difficulties.”

By working together in a workshop setting, the women were able to develop cross-border policy recommendations that address challenges identified throughout the dialogue.  Recommendations, which will be submitted to the U.S. State Department to share with officals in Mekong region countries, include the formation of regional working groups to continue to find solutions to the issues highlighted during the dialogue, the establishment of mobile schools throughout the region to increase girls’ access to education and monthly radio broadcasts with updates on infrastructure activities, policies and projects with a special focus on how they impact women.

In highlighting the benefit of the dialogue, a delegate from Cambodia stated, “Networking and collaborating are very important to strengthen women’s power and to promote women’s participation in all fields.” 

To ensure the woman are able to inform and influence decision-making processes in their respective countries, IRI will continue to support their work and strengthen the new network through meetings of working groups and online communications.    

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