01 Nov 2017 Story Gender

The trucker and the vendor: mapping gender to boost urban resilience in Laos

On a typical day, when Mr. Pasert, a 40-year-old truck driver, wakes up at 6 a.m., Ms. Sai, a food vendor ten years his senior, has already spent three hours preparing food to sell in the market.

In Lao People's Democratic Republic, a low-income and land-locked country in South-East Asia, a gendered division of labour prevails. This is why UN Environment undertook a comprehensive gender assessment to examine inequalities between women and men when developing a new project on urban resilience in the country.

“As a result of women’s reproductive and care roles in a family, and their lower literacy and employment rates, they are likely to suffer more during flooding, which has intensified in the last few years, driven by climate change,” said Victor Tsang, UN Environment’s Gender Officer, who led the gender assessment during a 10-day mission in Laos. “Women’s vulnerable position was repeatedly affirmed by government officials as well as community members.”

 laowoman.JPGIn one site visit, Tsang sat down with people in Luang Prabang, a former royal capital dotted with Buddhist temples on the banks of the Mekong River, and asked a woman and a man in detail about their 24-hour routine. Ms. Sai works every day, has little time to rest and does her work at home and in a nearby market. In contrast, Mr. Pasert works only two days a week and has significantly more leisure time, but drives long-distance to Vientiane, the capital city.

According to Tsang, gendered time use is a powerful tool to understand the gender dynamics in a particular context. It can be applied in both urban and rural areas, it is participatory, quick, and not sensitive. The data collected often reflect the different economic and domestic roles of women and men and their mobility, as well as women’s accumulating time poverty.

The 10-day mission concluded with a meeting chaired by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, during which Tsang presented the findings of the assessment and proposed a gender action plan for the urban resilience project. The proposed actions include partnership with the Lao Women’s Union, hiring of gender experts, inclusion of women in the project steering committee, and incorporation of gender criteria in the project’s recruitment and procurement. “It’s key to have government ownership and buy-in of the gender findings and action plan. I’m so glad that the project’s gender approach is participatory and bottom-up. It makes all the difference.”

UN Environment expects to submit the $30 million, seven-year project titled “Building resilience of urban populations with ecosystem based solutions in Lao PDR”, which is still under development, to the Green Climate Fund in mid-2018.