International Women’s Day 2023: Vannaphone “Kino” Sitthirath
Its International Women’s Day! A day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world AND a day to take action for #GenderEquality.
For #IWD2023, we’re pleased to feature Vannaphone “Kino” Sitthirath a Vientiane-based media consultant, film producer and co-founder of the Lao New Wave Cinema Production. She is committed to support filmmaking in Laos and has a driving mission to develop socially responsible media in her country and region.
In 2008, Kino received an #AustraliaAwards scholarship to pursue her Master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at @griffithuniversity, Brisbane.
Today she is change-maker and role model, using her skills in film and media to make a difference for women in Laos.
Kino began her career in media as a young journalist for Lao National Television, focusing on cross border issues in the Mekong sub region. “This experience allowed me to learn a lot about different social issues such as human trafficking, migration, HIV/AIDS and environment affecting people in the region especially marginalized people. I got a chance to discover new things each time I went out to meet and talk to people about their stories and researched about an issue”
In 2011, she co-founded Lao New Wave Cinema Productions with other collective filmmakers we shared a love of storytelling. “We had a dream to change the face of the Lao movie community and to support young people who are passionate in filmmaking to make films.
Kino has produced both feature and short films and now uses her journalistic skills to work as a freelance media consultant helping different organizations and to produce campaign and communication materials. Kino explains that “It is always nice to see that the campaign or media materials I helped produce could raise awareness on issues and create momentum for positive change in our community.”
Thinking about International Women’s Day, Kino says that “This day gives me a moment to reflect the role of women; women’s contribution; and women’s leadership. At the same time, the day also gives me a moment to reflect the struggles and challenges women are facing.”
This year’s theme for IWD is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” – a theme that is close to Kino’s heart.
“In Laos, women still lag behind men on education and economic participation. Technology and can help address the challenges women and girls face and increase their access to education and opportunities.” Says Kino.
Her ‘Sign for the Future’ project, supported by an Australian Government grant showed how technology and innovation can support equality. Partnering with local NGO for the hearing impaired “Hands of Hope”, Kino developed learning modules for deaf students. Filming sign language tutorials and uploading to online platforms like Facebook and Youtube has helped girls and children with hearing impairment learn Lao sign language.
“Not every deaf child can have access to the education they need as there are only a few schools across the country that provide special learning and teaching for the children with hearing impairment.” Explains Kino, “Not every family can afford to support their deaf children to study in other cities. Therefore, Sign for the Future producing videos teaching Lao sign language online can be accessible for free for girls and children who are hearing impaired. This approach will improve the deaf children’s literacy and communication skills.”
Finally, Kino says that it is important to build an environment to allow all women to thrive and grow. “This should start from the family allowing young girls to learn and have the same opportunities as young boys, then in the workplace, women deserve flexibility, equity and inclusion.”