ADWLE works primarily in three main areas: legal education on gender, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and applicable national and international women’s rights laws; capacity building of villages to promote women’s rights and community behavioural change towards women and girls; and providing legal aid services, notably to female victims of gender-based violence.
Education and training
At present, ADWLE provides legal education and training to two main beneficiary groups: university institutions and village communities.
ADWLE collaborates with two Universities: the National University of Laos (NUoL), Vientiane Capital, and Champasak University, Champasak Province. Since 2011, ADWLE has been conducting training sessions for teachers and students from the Faculties of Law and Political Sciences of both Universities on gender, CEDAW and women’s rights. In 2015, it started to expand its activities to other faculties in Champasak University.
In line with this, ADWLE works closely with the law teachers of both Universities providing training sessions on integrating a gender approach into teaching curricula. Moreover, in each University, a student group has been created: in NUoL, the Development of Women And Legal Education Group, and in Champasak University, the Student Gender Group. The students are responsible for raising awareness on gender and women’s rights in and outside of the classroom environment.
ADWLE also works with Village Mediation Unit members (VMU), village authority members, village chiefs and villagers of 12 villages who are trained on gender, CEDAW and laws related to women.
The aim is to promote community behavioural change and to reduce the use of customary law which is the dominant form of dispute resolution and does not apply a gender approach to decision-making.
In order to make the projects more sustainable, ADWLE has trained 12 village volunteers in the Khong District, Champasak Province, to raise awareness on gender and women’s rights in their communities. Moreover, in 2014, it trained 42 VMU members in six villages in Xaythany District, Vientiane Capital, on mediation techniques in order to strengthen their mediation skills.
Since 2011, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, ADWLE has coordinated the participation of 5000 students from 10 Universities and Colleges in numerous activities to mark the day. A different Province is selected each year: Savannakhet Province (in 2011), Khammouane Province (in 2012), Vientiane Capital (in 2013) and Champasak Province (in 2014).
In July 2015, ADWLE established the Legal Aid Clinic for Vulnerable Women. It is the first legal aid clinic for female victims of gender-based violence in Lao PDR. The Clinic is located in Xaythany District, Vientiane Capital.
The main beneficiaries of the Clinic are community members from six villages; three Hmong ethnicity villages and three Lao ethnicity villages.
Its mandate includes: representing women and girls suffering from gender-based violence during VMU mediation sessions and throughout the national court system; offering general legal advice to the villagers; and raising awareness about the rights of women and girls in the target villages where gender-based violence is particularly widespread.
The Clinic is run by a principal lawyer, nine assisting lawyers and 12 paralegals from the six target villages who are trained on applicable laws as well as case documenting and reporting.
ADWLE conducted two research projects (in 2012 and 2014 respectively), the findings of which were published in two Reports. One analysed the attitudes towards, and understanding of, women’s rights in four villages and the other focused on attitudes of lawyers to an increase in divorce rates in Lao PDR.
Networking and participation
Through the formation of partnerships and attendance of meetings, ADWLE has developed a solid network of national and international civil society organisations, international non-government organisations (INGOs) and academic institutions.
ADWLE’s Director, Inthana Bouphasavanh, is an active member in a number of networks, including the Gender Network and the Asia Pacific Women’s Caucus.
ADWLE also takes part in conferences with civil society, INGOs and Government bodies and has made numerous recommendations on policy and national laws.
In discussions on the adoption of laws relating to marital rape, ADWLE’s recommendations were taken into consideration and the law was subsequently approved in December 2014 and promulgated in January 2015. Most recently, ADWLE took part in discussions on Lao PDR’s 2015 CEDAW Country Report.