Laos: Closing the credit gap for women entrepreneurs
A solid legal foundation is complemented by vibrant village banks and land reform
In rural Laos, women regularly participate in village banks.
Laos has enacted a number of equal opportunity laws, including a presidential decree issued to "guarantee and promote the roles of women ... and protect the legitimate rights and interest." The law aims to "promote ... gender equality [and] eliminate all forms of discrimination against women."35 Overall, there are few legal restrictions that limit women's economic agency.
Village banks' micro-financing practices also support women's economic empowerment in this agrarian economy. In rural Laos, where 80 percent of Laotians reside, women regularly participate in village banks.36 Village banks are local, member-based organizations that are loosely regulated by provincial authorities. In 2012, 92 percent of women living in rural areas had access to an account at their village bank, either individually (21 percent) or jointly with their husband (71 percent).37 The majority of micro-finance savings customers are women.
Though land in Laos is collectively owned by the people of Laos and administered by the State, a land titling project financed by The World Bank and undertaken by the government, with participation by the Lao Women's Union, resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of land titles issued jointly in the name of women and men, or independently in the name of a woman.38
35—Presidential Decree No. 08/NA Law on the Development and Protection of Women art. 1 (Oct. 22, 2004).
36—Deutsche Gesellschaft für InternatIonale ZusammenarbeIt, rural fInance In Laos: GIZ experIence In remote rural areas 1 (2012) [hereinafter Rural Finance in Laos].
38—USAID Property Rights and Resource Governance 18; United States Agency for Int'l Development, Study on Women and Property Rights: project best practices 43 – 50 (2006).
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