SGRA Project in Laos (July)

JILAF has been implementing the SGRA project (Supporting Grass-Roots Activities through the International Employers’ and Workers’ Network), which is subsidized by the Japanese government (Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare), successively in Thailand, Nepal, and Bangladesh since 2011 and is launching it in Laos as well from the current fiscal year.
On July 2 and 3 an Enlarged Working Committee (EWC) seminar was held in Laos with the purpose of training core human resources to play a central role in promoting the project and discussing specific activity plans (Life Support Seminars, establishment of mutual-aid organizations, etc.) in the two districts where the project is being implemented, namely, the capital of Vientiane and the southern province of Savannakhet.
At the beginning of the seminar, a JILAF representative introduced activities of the Japanese government–subsidized SGRA project in Thailand, Nepal, and Bangladesh and achievements in those countries and went on, “JILAF will provide as much backing as possible for the activities of the central Promotion Committee and the Vientiane and Savannakhet Working Committees, which are made up of representatives of the Lao government, labour, and management, toward the full-scale development of the project in Laos.”
In response, speaking on behalf of the Lao government, labour, and management, Mr.Ounkham Bounyaseing, head of the General Affairs Division in the Labour Protection Bureau of the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), stated with enthusiasm, “In Laos, where the rights of informal-sector workers as workers are beginning to be recognized through revision of the labour law, we very much want to develop the SGRA project toward the protection and livelihood improvement of informal-sector workers.”
Mr. Teruhiko Sekiguchi, director of JILAF’s office in Thailand, then explained the purpose and objectives of the meeting as (1) the acquisition of know-how for the establishment of mutual-aid systems for network members, their families, and their communities; (2) the acquisition of know-how for holding the Life Support Seminar through collaboration with the Community-Based Enterprise Development (C-BED) program of the International Labour Organization (ILO) (a community empowerment and business startup support initiative); and (3) the compilation of specific activity plans.
Next, Mr. Masao Kanemaru, a director at Japan’s Zenrosai Kyokai (National Association of Workers’ Welfare and Cooperative Insurance), gave a special lecture titled “Thinking about Mutual-Aid Systems,” in which he talked about the background to the establishment of Zenrosai (National Federation of Workers’ and Consumers’ Insurance Cooperatives) in Japan, the current situation, its product lineup, and its operational structure. For the sustained operation of a mutual-aid organization, Mr. Kanemaru said, “trust between the operating side and members is most important.” He concluded, “We will give as much backup as possible to the establishment of a mutual-aid organization in Laos.”
The participants made many positive comments, including the following:
“There is a deep-rooted foundation of mutual help in Laos, especially in the provinces, but it has not been systemized. I will aim to establish a mutual-aid system with the Zenrosai model as my vision.”
“Although there is a setup for mutual aid among union members in the LFTU, it does not apply to informal-sector workers, who are not union members. Changes to the rules and regulations are necessary. I would like to see a system that benefits all workers.”
On the second day of the seminar, in preparation for the holding of Life Support Seminars through collaboration with the ILO, Mr. Aanas Ali, an expert at the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, gave an outline of the C-BED activities and explained the provisional tool kit for the SGRA project in Laos, after which there was a role-playing session using this kit.
Finally, the two-day seminar ended with the participants discussing specific activity plans for Vientiane and Savannakhet, including the holding of Life Support Seminars aimed at improving the livelihoods of informal-sector workers.


07/02Thu2nd EWC Seminar day 1
07/03Fri2nd EWC Seminar day 2

Photos of the Participants

Explanation of mutual aid by Zenrosai

Explanation by the ILO

Role play