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Opening Remarks by Mr.

Chong Chi Nai, Country Director Lao PDR Resident Mission, Asian Development Bank at The Launch of the Country Gender Assessment for Lao PDR 14:00 16: 30 hrs, Friday 1 March 2013 ------------------------------------------Your Excellency Mme. Khempheng Pholsena, Minister to the Governments Office and Chairperson of the Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women;

Ms. Keiko Miwa, Country Manager, Lao PDR, World Bank;

Excellencies, distinguished participants from the government, development partners and colleagues;

Ladies and gentlemen, Good afternoon! On behalf of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) I would like to extend to all of you a very warm welcome to the Launching of the Country Gender Assessment for Lao PDR. It is my great pleasure today that we can share this report with you. ADB, in close partnership with the World Bank, has worked with the Government of Lao PDR in the preparation of this important report. I would like to congratulate the production team for their hard work and dedication. Lao PDRs development progress has been impressive. The country has successfully transformed itself into a lower-middle-income country. Its gross national income has doubled since 2006. This has helped nearly halving poverty in over 15 years. In tandem with growth and poverty reduction, the country has also made impressive gains in advancing gender equality in some areas. More girls now go to schools and more women have access to health services. More women than ever before are participating actively in the labor market and womens representation in decisionmaking is increasing. However, such gains have not been evenly experienced among women across the country. Women in rural areas and from smaller ethnic groups continue to face difficulties accessing basic social services and infrastructure. Rural women face multiple constraints, trying to perform drudgery of household tasks such as collecting water and fuel wood, while producing food and coping with diminishing natural

resources and increasing flood and drought risks due to climate change. This contrasts the image of young educated urban women who have greater opportunities for gaining decent jobs. With growth and opportunities, some risks and threats also come along. Greater connectivity with neighboring countries also brings about increased risks of communicable diseases and unsafe migration such as human trafficking, to which women and girls are vulnerable. The Country Gender Assessment for Lao PDR has the subtitle of Reducing Vulnerability and Increasing Opportunity for all women in the country. This is exactly what we would like to see in dynamically changing Lao PDR. A key challenge for the government is to successfully manage development and poverty reduction efforts in a manner that is inclusive, pro-poor and gender-responsive. These issues are highly recognized by the government. Promoting gender equity is one of the priorities of the Seventh Five-Year National Socio-Economic Development Plan. The National Strategy for Advancement of Women sets out detailed measures and targets to achieve this goal. ADB has a long-term partnership with the Lao Government in supporting gender equality in the country. We have supported the Lao Womens Union and the National Commission for Advancement of Women in the past and are continuing to do so. Just recently, we launched a technical assistance project to support the National Commission for Advancement of Women network in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. Similarly, other ongoing TAs support gender mainstreaming capacity of executing agencies in the agriculture and water supply sectors. In late 2011, ADB endorsed the new Country Partnership Strategy 2012-2016 for Lao PDR. Early findings of this Country Gender Assessment have informed the new Country Partnership Strategy which places a cross-cutting emphasis on gender equality and womens empowerment. The majority of ADB-financed investment projects have strong gender equality and women empowerment focus and include project gender action plans. They support womens better access to social services, increased access to skills development and job opportunities, and enhanced participation in decision-making process such as water user groups, farmer groups, local and central government committees. These are done in a number of sectors including agriculture and natural resources management, rural infrastructure, finance, water supply and sanitation, municipal services, education, technical and vocational training, and health. On behalf of ADB, I look forward to continue our strong partnership with the Government of Lao PDR and development partners in achieving gender equality and empowering women in Lao PDR. Finally, I would like to thank H.E. Mme. Khempheng, Chairperson of the National Commission for the Advancement of Women (NCAW) for her strong leadership and guidance, the Lao Womens Union, and last but not least, the World Bank for the

close partnership in the preparation of the Lao PDR Country Gender Assessment and also in its subsequent dissemination. Thank you.