Vanh Mixap (Laos)
Founder, Everyone Matters
Master of Integrated Water Management
Graduated in 2015
Vanh has a very diverse professional background in international development. She began as a tour guide and English teacher assistant in Laos. While studying she worked as a social scientist researcher for Sustainable Development of Fairtrade Coffee. After finishing university she worked as AusAID Water Resources Management Officer and Gender Focal Point, was a host for an English program on Lao TV, a hospitality industries trainer for the International Labour Organisation and a coordinator for sustainable tourism and trade. Volunteer roles have included work for the Red Cross Australia and the Mines Victims and Clearance Trust (MiVAC) aid project in Laos, Engineers without Borders in Cambodia, and research for TransformationFirst.Asia to empower emerging leaders in Asia.
I choose to try many things and have a diverse professional path because it is in my nature to keep challenging myself in order to broaden my horizon. However, all these diverse paths share the same goal, and that is my commitment to education and gender equality as a sustainable way to combat poverty.
My commitment to justice, empowering vulnerable groups and fighting for human rights and gender equality not only in development but in every-day life has strengthened through my diverse roles in development and, in particular, through my work as a Gender Focal Point and Program Officer in AusAID’s Mekong Water Resources Program in Laos. There I have seen and experienced the lives of vulnerable people, and how international development aid workers can help these people in bringing them justice and equality.
I also believe that gender inequality is one of the main roots of poverty, both in a financial and intellectual sense. I strongly believe that in order to eradicate poverty once and for all, it requires a strong involvement from everyone regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, and people need to be empowered so they are able to stand on their own feet.
What attracted you to the IWC Masters?
It is in my nature to challenge myself in different areas and roles, not just when opportunities arise, but I also like to proactively pursue opportunities. I believe that you will never understand how someone really feels or what they are going through by only trying to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ unless you are really putting the shoes on.
First of all, I chose this Master program because I wanted to improve my technical skills. The nature of IWC's Master of Integrated Water Management was indeed another challenge that attracted me, because it is not a science or engineering degree that focuses purely on a certain angle, but an inter-disciplinary degree where you need to address many different issues wearing multiple ‘glasses’. This motivation stems from my policy and field experience as AusAID worker, as well as the hope that I can assist Laos and other Mekong countries with managing water resources more sustainably in the future.
What were the best parts of the program and why?
There were two highlights for me:
- The quality and the energy of most of the lecturers, particularly the skills they have in making science much more fun to learn and easier to understand.
- The creative ways of teaching through a mix of methods.
How do you hope the program will help your career?
My uncle once told me: "If you want to help the country or even the world, start with your family, because one well educated family member will lead to another”. I do believe this program will help my family, my community, my country and the world.
The people I met and connected with through the program, and the things I have learned by taking this journey inspired me to develop an ambitious plan called '2020 Plan' – something like a social business model. The centre (location to be determined) will include facilities for conferences, a café, B&B accommodation, student dorms, and an urban farming enterprise with on-site wastewater treatment.
The main purpose of the site is to run an education centre for sustainable water and energy management and to demonstrate how water and energy efficiency can be achieved. The income generated can be used to provide scholarships for underprivileged children who can live and learn at the centre and at the same time gain practical skills in hospitality and water resources management.
How do you hope to contribute to the development of Laos' water management needs in the future?
What Laos and many developing countries need are competent human resources in order to achieve sustainable development not just in water management, but in every aspect. With this degree I am now better prepared to become one of those competent human resources who can contribute to the sustainable development of Laos and the region.
Based on my experiences as a female working in the water resources sector in the Mekong region, I strongly believe that more education will better prepare myself as someone who can lead Laos at international discussion and negotiation tables in order to achieve better and more sustainable water management.
With more knowledge and experience comes confidence. This is what I need to achieve for my voice to be heard and respected in a male-dominated sector like water resources management in Southeast Asia.
How do you think a partnership like the GWP-IWC one can help you achieve your goals?
The Global Water Partnership (GWP) has been very supportive – firstly, through empowering me with this Masters degree, and, secondly, by connecting me with a pool of professionals in the Indonesian water sector at one of the IWRM Conferences.
GWP also provided me with the unique opportunity to undertake a six month internship in Stockholm whilst I was writing my thesis focusing on strategies for emerging leaders to use to achieve water and energy nexus in urban wastewater management.
I believe that GWP, with its wealth of knowledge, networks and expertise, will continue to be a great support now after my graduation.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I believe there is no better way to empower people than giving them access to knowledge and education. I cannot thank the scholarship provider Global Water Partnership (GWP) and International Riverfoundation (IRF), as well as the IWC team, enough for giving a female from a developing country like myself this great opportunity to access knowledge, learn and become empowered.
- 31/10/2014: Vanh reflects on 'Women in Rivers' breakfast organised as part of the 17th International Riversymposium in Canberra (source: International RiverFoundation website)
- 03/12/2013: Two New Scholars Awarded the GWP Ken Thiess Scholarship (source: Global Water Partnership)
- 17/11/2015: Vanh's blog - Women in Rivers