The public and private sectors must work together if the UN’s SDGs are to be met by David Daepp, UNOPS, FDI Intelligence
Through an ongoing initiative funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework, the Laotian Ministry of Industry and Commerce has spearheaded an inspiring project that leverages a for-profit social business called Ock Pop Tok (OPT). Headquartered in picturesque Luang Prabang, OPT trains and equips rural female weavers to produce higher quality, more valuable handicrafts for sale locally and internationally.
With greater knowledge, coupled with better equipment and improved techniques, 129 rural female weavers are now earning an average of 46% more for their work. Some of the villages have increased their income by more than 100%.
Training these women at their homes has required extensive time and effort. But through this hard work, there has been a big shift in the power dynamic of rural households, with empowered women earning more than their husbands and garnering greater respect. The weavers, together with OPT, are also helping preserve and promote Laotian heritage by showcasing traditional patterns, and fabrics and capturing cultural significance through improved handicrafts.
Critics may question supporting a development initiative that features a profit-making element. The weavers serve as reliable producers of base products, which OPT purchases and then upscales and sells online and in its brick-and-mortar shops. Reliable supply for OPT’s wider sales network allows for reliable — and increased — revenue for the women involved. OPT as a social enterprise also provides government co-financing for the project, which further benefits the weavers and their families.