Women in Laos participating in a training workshop. Photo credit: AsianWeek.

AsianWeek reported on Sept. 12 in Laos, a country suffering from poverty and inequality, micro-credit is apparently changing lives for poor women across the southeast Asian country. The writer, Charlotte Halligan, travels to Ban Hai village in central Laos and learns that almost a third of people in Laos survive on less than a dollar a day, and a staggering 74 percent on less than $2. In the rural and remote areas, where three quarters of the Laos population lives, half of all children are severely malnourished and suffer from stunted growth. Women do the lion’s share of all work, not just in the home, but in the fields, the markets, the shops and restaurants. Women’s literacy is just 54 percent compared to 77 percent in men; girls in rural areas leave school, on average, after just two years. In a country war-torn for almost two decades, many women find themselves the sole income earner for families struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table. But small loans to start their own businesses, based on skills they already have, give them the right training and help connect them with potential buyers, and empower them to change their lives. The Social Economic Developers Association (SEDA) is an organization that has been working with women in villages all over Laos, to give them a fighting chance at long term financial stability. Women are provided with small loans at a low rate of interest, and provided with financial management training.

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