Increasing Legal Awareness of Rural Communities in Laos
Photo courtesy of Village Focus International, Lao PDR
14 June 2024

Increasing Legal Awareness of Rural Communities in Laos

Increasing Legal Awareness of Rural Communities in Laos

Village Focus International (VFI), based in Lao PDR, has been working to protect local communities access to land and natural resources for over 20 years. VFI is making significant strides to address these issues through a new initiative “Empowering Young Law Students for Village Community Access to Justice in Lao PDR”, funded by the UN Democracy Fund.

The two-year project was launched in January 2023 to provide legal awareness training to local communities, enhance the legal education of law students in these critical areas, and provide pro bono legal services to communities facing land and resource disputes.

VFI has selected 49 law students to participate in the program. These students, organized into groups of five, are working in 10 villages across Laos, primarily in their home villages. Last year, they collected data from these communities, and this year, they have started implementing legal awareness activities and legal counselling.

Increasing Legal Awareness of Rural Communities in Laos

The program also supports 120 additional students, helping them learn about relevant laws and improve their skills to become effective trainers. The training covers legal principles related to land and natural resources and includes practical exercises in local communities.

Beyond teaching laws, VFI's program emphasizes strengthening the rights of women and girls in the 10 target villages. Many of these villages are home to ethnic groups with strong patriarchal traditions. 

To address the gender inequality, law student volunteers have initiated legal awareness activities focused on gender rights. They created an exercise where villagers categorize pictures into "women's work," "men's work," and activities both genders can do. This exercise sparked discussions on gender roles and helped influence the community to consider changing traditional norms. Additionally, the students shared legal information related to women's rights, including their rights to land.

By combining legal education with community engagement, VFI's initiative is making a tangible impact on rural communities in Laos. The project not only increases legal awareness but also fosters discussions that can lead to societal change, particularly regarding gender equality.

Village Focus International's efforts highlight the importance of legal education in protecting the rights of vulnerable populations. Through continued support VFI aims to create a more just and equitable society in Lao PDR.