Indigenous Perspectives on Gender, Power and Climate-Related Displacement


Pentlow, Sarah. 2020. "Indigenous Perspectives on Gender, Power and Climate-Related Displacement." Forced Migration Review 64: 28-31.


Author: Sarah Pentlow


The impacts of climate change are most severely felt by those who live closest to their natural habitats. Indigenous Peoples in the Greater Mekong subregion of Southeast Asia are facing threats to their livelihoods and traditional ways of life and are being forced to migrate as an adaptation strategy. Within these communities, women bear the brunt of the work to adapt as they, culturally, are responsible for the food supply and livestock care. In this context, the Climate Smart Women initiative undertook village-level field research in selected Indigenous communities in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to understand the gendered impacts of climate change at a community level and how communities are responding. Pre-existing inequalities are exacerbated by climate change, resulting in differentiated vulnerabilities.


Topics: Displacement & Migration, Climate Displacement, Gender, Gender Roles, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Indigenous, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam

Year: 2020

Making Space for Women: Civil Society Organizations, Gender and Hydropower Development in the Mekong Region


Lebel, Phimphakan, Louis Lebel, Darunee Singphonphrai, Chatta Duangsuwan, and Yishu Zhou. 2019. “Making Space for Women: Civil Society Organizations, Gender and Hydropower Development in the Mekong Region.” International Journal of Water Resources Development 35 (2): 305-25.

Authors: Phimphakan Lebel, Louis Lebel, Darunee Singphonphrai, Chatta Duangsuwan, Yishu Zhou


Large-scale hydropower development disrupts local livelihoods and resource access. Adverse impacts are often greater for women than men, but also large for children, the elderly, poorer households and ethnic minorities. Burdens of resettlement often fall disproportionately on already disadvantaged individuals. The purpose of this study was to evaluate how international, national and local civil society organizations (CSOs) have addressed gender in hydropower development in the Mekong Region. Four CSO orientations are distinguished: communitarian, environmentalist, knowledge-based and feminist. Common activities of CSOs were to share information, to expand participation and to mobilize development. The extent to which these activities were promoted and appear to be making space for women depended on the types of CSOs and women and men targeted or otherwise involved. 

Keywords: civil society organizations, gender, hydropower, Mekong

Topics: Age, Youth, Civil Society, Displacement & Migration, Development, Economies, Poverty, Environment, Ethnicity, Feminisms, Gender, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam

Year: 2019

Gender in Development Discourses of Civil Society Organisations and Mekong Hydropower Dams


Lebel, Louis, Phimphakan Lebel, Kanokwan Manorom, and Zhou Yishu. 2019. “Gender in Development Discourses of Civil Society Organisations and Mekong Hydropower Dams.” Water Alternatives 12 (1): 192–220.

Authors: Louis Lebel, Phimphakan Lebel, Kanokwan Manorom, Zhou Yishu


'Gender in development' discourses are used to justify interventions into, or opposition to, projects and policies; they may also influence perceptions, practices, or key decisions. Four discursive threads are globally prominent: livelihoods and poverty; natural resources and the environment; rights-based; and managerial. Civil society organisations (CSOs) have been vocal in raising awareness about the adverse impacts of large-scale hydropower developments on the environment, on local livelihoods, and on vulnerable groups including women. This discourse analysis first examines how CSOs engaging in hydropower processes in the Mekong Region frame and use gender in development discourses, and then evaluates the potential of these discourses to empower both women and men. Documents authored by CSOs are examined in detail for how gender is represented, as are media reports on CSO activities, interview transcripts, and images. The findings underline how CSOs depend on discursive legitimacy for influence. Their discursive strategies depend on three factors: the organizations’ goals with respect to development, gender, and the environment; whether the situation is pre- or post-construction; and, on their relationships with the state, project developers and dam-affected communities. The implications of these strategies for empowerment are often not straightforward; inadvertent and indirect effects, positive and negative, are common. The findings of this study are of practical value to CSOs wishing to be more reflexive in their work and more responsive to how it is talked about, as it shows the ways that language and images may enhance or inadvertently work against efforts to empower women.

Keywords: civil society organisations, gender in development, discourse, representation, hydropower

Topics: Civil Society, Development, Environment, Gender, Infrastructure, Energy, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam

Year: 2019

The Gender and Equity Implications of Land- Related Investments on Land Access and Labour and Income-Generating Opportunities: A Case Study of Selected Agricultural Investments in LAO PDR


Daley, Elizabeth, Martha Osorio, and Clara Mi Young Park. 2013. The Gender and Equity Implications of Land- Related Investments on Land Access and Labour and Income-Generating Opportunities: A Case Study of Selected Agricultural Investments in LAO PDR. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Authors: Elizabeth Daley, Martha Osorio, Clara Mi Young Park


“The FAO work programme has a number of complementary components, including a series of case studies in countries where private foreign investments are already operational. The present report, on agricultural investments in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is the second in this series of case studies. It is based primarily on a period of four weeks fieldwork in Laos in November 2011, in which interviews were held with over 68 key informants and with some 114 people (51 women and 63 men) who were consulted in 17 focus group discussions with local farmers and agricultural workers. The fieldwork was carried out in three of Lao PDR’s 17 provinces – Borikhamxai, Vientiane and Vientiane Capital – with the active support and facilitation of the FAO Country Office and the Government of Lao PDR. Six companies covering a wide range of business models and crops were selected. Among those, there is a tobacco producer. Given the existing conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health and recognizing FAO’s role, as part of the United Nations Ad Hoc Interagency Task Force on Tobacco Control, in promoting economically viable and sustainable alternatives for tobacco workers and growers, this report does not support nor endorse the tobacco value chain.
“This report is organized as follows. Chapter 2 provides a brief background to the issues globally and describes the methodology. Chapter 3 comprises the main body of the case study, drawing on information gathered in the key informant interviews and focus group discussions, as well as on relevant secondary materials. It situates the case in Laos and explores the policy context and key gender and governance issues around land-related agricultural investments. It also presents from the fieldwork some primary data on agricultural investments and examples of good practices from companies and for an enabling environment for smallholders. Chapter 4 then ends the report with overall conclusions and policy recommendations for land-related investments in agriculture in Laos” (Daley and Park 2013, 3).

Topics: Agriculture, Gender, Land Grabbing, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Laos

Year: 2013

Resettlement in Lao PDR: Mobility, Resistance and Gendered Impacts


Kusakabe, Kyoko, Ragnhild Lund, Smita Mishra Panda, Yunxian Wang, and Sengkham Vongphakdy. 2015. “Resettlement in Lao PDR: Mobility, Resistance and Gendered Impacts.” Gender, Place & Culture 22 (8): 1089–1105. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2014.939149.

Authors: Kyoko Kusakabe, Ragnhild Lund, Smita Mishra Panda, Yunxian Wang, Sengkham Vongphakdy


Villagers in northern Laos have been on the move for generations. Recent changes, however, in the location of their village and their daily mobility patterns differ from what they have experienced before; the government’s resettlement programme has changed their livelihoods and made them more socially and economically vulnerable. The ethnic groups we studied have decided to use mobility to resist state control and seek livelihood security for themselves. By using the concept of motility, this article analyses how this household and community choices have a gender-differentiated impact. The mobility patterns of men and women have changed. While men attend to long-term investments, women are forced to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis. Men visit the market and public places more frequently, while women spend more time looking for non-timber forest products and working as hired labour. Although women now support the family and their mobility has increased, their say in the household seems to be on the decline, resulting in weakening women’s motility. 


Keywords: Gender, resettlement, mobility, Laos, livelihoods

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Gender, Women, Men, Gender Roles, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Laos

Year: 2015

The People and their River, the World Bank and its Dam: Revisiting the Xe Bang Fai River in Laos


Baird, Ian G., Bruce P. Shoemaker, and Kanokwan Manorom. 2015. “The People and Their River, the World Bank and Its Dam: Revisiting the Xe Bang Fai River in Laos.” Development and Change 46 (5): 1080–1105.

Authors: Ian G. Baird, Bruce P. Shoemaker, Kanokwan Manorom


Sustained criticism in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in a decline of World Bank funding for large hydropower dams. The Bank subsequently participated in the World Commission on Dams process, which set higher global standards for hydropower dams. In 2005, the World Bank agreed to support the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project (NT2) in Laos, and in 2010 NT2 began diverting water from the Theun River into the Xe Bang Fai River. The World Bank has promoted NT2 as a successful model of poverty alleviation, justifying support for other large dams. Assessing actual impacts and associated mitigation and compensation is thus timely. This article presents qualitative field research from early 2014 about the downstream impacts of NT2 in the Xe Bang Fai River basin and a description and analysis of efforts to compensate for losses. The authors consider the situation with the assistance of baseline data collected in 2001, before project approval. Findings suggest that NT2 has had a significant negative impact, including on the livelihoods of large numbers of people dependent on the river's resources. Many of those impacted view compensation and mitigation efforts as having failed to adequately address their losses. Further independent investigation and documentation are needed.

Topics: Gender, Women, Infrastructure, International Financial Institutions, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Laos

Year: 2015

Road Development, and Changes in Livelihood and Mobility in Savannakhet, Lao PDR


Khumya, Tanaradee, and Kyoko Kusakabe. 2015. “Road Development, and Changes in Livelihood and Mobility in Savannakhet, Lao PDR.” Development in Practice 25 (7): 1011–24. doi:10.1080/09614524.2015.1071782.

Authors: Tanaradee Khumya, Kyoko Kusakabe



The development of roads is a major focus of development projects in the Mekong Sub-Region. This empirical study was conducted in Savannakhet, Lao PDR, to examine the benefits of road development, its impact on livelihoods, and the link between livelihoods and mobility through the concept of sense of place. The results showed that road development affected people's livelihoods, which, in turn, affected their sense of place and mobility. Analysing sense of place allows us to understand how road development can change gender norms and why more women migrate than men.


Le développement des routes constitue un important axe des projets de développement dans la sous-région du Mékong. Cette étude empirique a été menée à Savannakhet, en RDP lao, pour examiner les avantages du développement des routes, son impact sur les moyens de subsistance et le lien entre les moyens de subsistance et la mobilité grâce au concept du sentiment d'appartenance. Les résultats ont montré que le développement des routes a eu une incidence sur les moyens de subsistance des personnes, ce qui a eu un effet sur leur sentiment d'appartenance et leur mobilité. En analysant le sentiment d'appartenance, il nous est possible de comprendre comment le développement des routes peut modifier les normes de genre et pourquoi les femmes sont plus nombreuses à migrer que les hommes.


En los proyectos de desarrollo realizados en la subregión del Mekong, la construcción de carreteras constituye una importante área de atención. El presente estudio empírico, destinado a examinar los beneficios ligados a la construcción de carreteras, su impacto en los medios de vida y el vínculo entre medios de vida y movilidad, empleando para ello el concepto de “sentido de lugar”, se llevó a cabo en Savannakhet, rdp Lao. Los resultados dan cuenta de que la construcción de carreteras afectó los medios de vida de las personas, los cuales, a su vez, afectaron su sentido de lugar y su movilidad. El análisis del sentido de lugar permite comprender cómo la construcción de carreteras puede cambiar las normas vinculadas al género y las razones por las cuales las mujeres migran más que los hombres.

Keywords: Gender, diversity, livelihoods, migration, labor, aid

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Infrastructure Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Laos

Year: 2015

War in the Blood: Sex, Politics and AIDS in Southeast Asia


Beyrer, Chris. 1998. War in the Blood: Sex, Politics and AIDS in Southeast Asia. London: Zed Books.

Author: Chris Beyrer


This engaging and vivid book investigates the course of the HIV epidemic in seven countries of South East Asia: Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam and China’s Yunnan Province. Emphasising the impact of the cultural and political landscapes of these countries on the progress of the disease, the book is the product of both working and travelling in the area. Not merely a commentary on obfuscating government statistics, the author draws upon his encounters with people dealing with the effects of the epidemic and opponents of the regimes of the countries he describes. The epidemic is seen as being vitally linked to the general condition of human rights in the societies.

In the first part of the book the author travels to each country in turn chronicling the different approaches adopted to the epidemic. The second part covers issues involving specific groups at risk - among other topics, women and contraception, prostitution and the traffic in women, HIV and the US military, the Heroin trade, gay sex workers, prisoners, and the work of local activists. The third part of the book looks at policy and the general effect of culture on public health care, stressing the need for local empowerment of populations, and in particular women, to effect social changes that would go hand in hand with improvements in the handling of the HIV epidemic. Both passionate and well-informed, this book is a labour of love that discusses the HIV epidemic while giving an intimate, and ultimately celebratory account of South East Asia and asserting the real possiblity for affirmative action. (Amazon)

Topics: Governance, Health, HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Livelihoods, Sexual Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Rights, Human Rights, Sexuality, Trafficking, Drug Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam

Year: 1998

Gender Mainstreaming in Government Offices in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos: Perspectives from Below


Kusakabe, Kyoko. 2005. “Gender Mainstreaming in Government Offices in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos: Perspectives from below.” Gender & Development 13 (2): 46–56.

Author: Kyoko Kusakabe


In this article, I aim to examine the ways in which gender concerns have been 'mainstreamed' into government activities. I focus on three countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region: Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. While gender mainstreaming policies are in place at the national level in these countries, the 'evaporation' (Longwe 1995) of such policies at the lower levels has been a problem. The article concentrates on challenges of implementation which exist at provincial/commune and department levels. Drawing on the experience of middle and low-level government officers, I argue here that policy evaporation occurs partly because of lack of political commitment to gender mainstreaming at different levels. Another problem is that the concept of gender mainstreaming itself remains vague, and is thus difficult to translate into action.

Topics: Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Governance Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand

Year: 2005

Mental Health of Southeast Asian Refugee Women: An Overview


Mattson, Susan. 1993. "Mental Health of Southeast Asian Refugee Women: An Overview." Health Care for Women International 14 (2): 155-165.

Author: Susan Mattson


Southeast Asian refugee women suffered extremely traumatic experiences at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, during their escapes from Cambodia and Laos, and in refugee camps. I describe these experiences as the background for interventions to promote and reestablish mental health in these women. A reported study of women who were experiencing psychosomatic blindness as a result of the trauma they had undergone is presented as an example. Therapeutic strategies are suggested.

Keywords: mental health, female refugees, trauma

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, PTSD, Trauma Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, Laos

Year: 1993


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