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Ethnic Groups, Gender, and Poverty Eradication

Background and Rationale for the Study


ethenic groups and genderThe Lao Government aims to eradicate poverty and upgrade the country from the status of least developed country by the year 2020. The Lao Government is currently developing a National Poverty Eradication Program (NPEP) for 2003-2005. The National Plan has identified ethnic groups especially in the upland areas as targeted population for the poverty reduction program. The government recognizes 47 main ethnic groups in Lao PDR. The ethnic groups residing in the uplands tend to be the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Findings from the Participatory Poverty Assessment point out that “ethnic minority women and girls represent more than 50 percent of the female population, and are the most disadvantaged segment of Lao society. They make up about 70 percent of the illiterate population of Lao PDR, and have limited access to public services.”2


Under the NPEP, the government is committed to promoting gender equality to improve the effectiveness of the poverty reduction program. A draft action plan to mainstream gender dimensions in the NPEP has been developed. However, there is limited knowledge and data on the different ethnic groups, especially on gender roles and gender relations, decision-making, traditional beliefs, language, etc. Women from the ethnic minorities and indigenous populations are rarely represented in government administration and very few at higher levels of planning and decision-making, even in the mass-organizations, including the Lao Women’s Union. An improved understanding of the gender dimensions of poverty among the ethnic groups in Lao PDR is thus an important factor in enhancing the development effectiveness of poverty eradication in Lao PDR.


World Bank Assistance


The World Bank has been assisting the Lao Government in developing the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (in Lao PDR called the National Poverty Eradication Program) since 2001. The East Asia and Pacific Region Environment and Social Development Sector has provided support to the World Bank country team and the Lao Government to institutionalize stakeholder consultation/participation and promote gender equality in the NPEP process. The Bank has been working with the government counterpart and development agencies to formulate participation action plans and initially identify key gender issues and possible interventions to reduce gender gaps in key sectors of the NPEP, namely, Transport, Education, Health and Agriculture and Forestry. Under this cross support effort of the Bank, there is a major knowledge and information gap within the country and the Bank about the targeted populations for NPEP - the ethnic groups. Research and information on ethnic minorities are limited and usually scattered as parts of larger research themes.


The Participatory Poverty Assessment supported by the ADB in 2002 provides a good overview of poverty among the ethnic minorities in Lao PDR including their livelihood, beliefs, barriers for public services, etc. The PPA pointed out that information regarding gender dimensions of ethnic groups is lacking and further research needs to be conducted to broaden the understanding on this issue. In order to improve the development effectiveness in poverty reduction programs and improve the quality of the WB assistance especially in mainstreaming gender and participation, there is a need to increase the knowledge and understanding about gender issues, especially among the various ethnic groups, and indigenous peoples.


  Read the Full Report (880kb pdf)
  Also see Gender Equality in East Asia

2 Participatory Poverty Assessment: Lao People's Democratic Republic, 2002.

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