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Remittances and the Changing Roles of Women in Laos

Authors: N. Southiseng, J. Walsh


Prior to 1975, women in Laos suffered from having reduced levels of power over decision-making in their families and in their communities. This has had a negative impact on their ability to develop their own identities. Their roles were identified as being responsible for household activities and making preparations for their marriage. Many women lost opportunities to get educated and access the outdoor work that might have empowered them to improve their situations. So far, no accurate figures of either emigrants or return migrants have been compiled but it appears that most of them were women, and it was women who most and more frequently remitted money home. However, very few recent studies have addressed the relationship between remittances and the roles of women in Laos. This study, therefore, aims at redressing to some extent the deficiencies in knowledge. Qualitative techniques were used to gather data, including individual in-depth interviews and direct observation in combination with the content analysis method. Forty women in Vientiane Municipality and Savannakhet province were individually interviewed. It was found that the monetary remittance was typically used for family security and well-being; on fungible activities; on economic and business activities; and on community development, especially concerning hospitality and providing daily household necessities. Remittances played important roles in improving many respondents- livelihoods and positively changed their identities in families and communities. Women became empowered as they were able to start commercial businesses, rather than taking care of (just) housework, children and elders. Interviews indicated that 92.5% of the respondents their quality of lives improved, 90% felt happier in their families and 82.5% felt conflicts in their families were reduced.

Keywords: Laos, Monetary Remittances, Social Remittance, Women's Empowerment.

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