BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - The Asia Foundation has opened Laos'
first shelter to protect women and children who are victims of
domestic abuse and human trafficking, the nonprofit organization
The shelter, a walled compound on the outskirts of the capital,
Vientiane, was built on land donated by the government, the San
Francisco-based foundation said in a statement. The facility
provides trained counselors and can house up to 50 women and
"Until now, women who found themselves in violent situations
had to return home at night," said Gretchen Kunze of the Asia
"This is a huge step forward for Laos," she said, contacted in
Vientiane ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the shelter to be
attended by Laotian officials.
UNICEF and the Japanese Embassy in Laos were among the donors
that helped fund the shelter.
The foundation plans to build a vocational training center on
the compound to teach job skills, including basic business
management and sewing that will enable the women to support
themselves, the statement said.
The creation of the center follows legislation passed in October
2004, called the Development and Protection of Women Act, which
offers greater protections to victims of domestic abuse and
trafficking, the foundation said.
Prior to the shelter's opening, the only center available to
female victims of abuse in Laos was a daytime drop-in center where
women could seek temporary protection, said Kunze.