Lao Rugby Federation’s (LRF) Development Coordinator for Xieng Khouang was named by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as one of its 100 Women of 2018. An important leader in the rugby community and role model for players across Asia, this honour comes at a key time for a sport that is spreading its roots across Asia.
Since 2013, each year the BBC has selected 100 ‘influential and inspirational’ women from around the world, chosen for their impact on their communities. From Alicia Keys to Julia Gillard, these women are shaping the world in important ways, and represent 60 countries. To date, Ms. Lao Khang, is the first Lao leader to be recognised.
Ms. Lao Khang grew up in Namgonnoua Village, Nonghet District, Xieng Khouang Province in Laos. Like many of her classmates, she helped her family farm, in addition to keeping up with her schoolwork as she was growing up.
At 13 years old, Lao Khang stopped going to school so that she could take care of her family as her father had fallen ill. “I couldn’t talk about what I wanted at that time,” says Khang. “Everyone in my family said, ‘Don’t go to school! Just stay and work.’ I didn’t know how to convince them.”
Despite her dream of going back to school, Lao Khang stopped her studies and worked in the fields to provide for her family.
In 2012, Lao Khang learned about the sport of rugby, and seized the opportunity to be a part of something new that was engaging young boys and girls in her community.
She began participating in rugby for leadership sessions held in the village, and soon found work as a youth rugby Coach through a pilot project started through a partnership between the LRF and ChildFund Laos.
Participation in coaching and training in Vientiane was the first time she’d left Xieng Khouang province in her life – and it was a challenge. A native Hmong speaker, she worked hard to improve her Lao language skills so that she could support with the LRF’s work as an intern.
Throughout her internship, Lao Khang developed her language and IT skills and supported with coaching work in Vientiane as well as with organising rugby events and activities in Nonghet District.
In 2014, she led the first district-wide competition in Nonghet with 16 teams participating in tag rugby matches. In 2015, Lao Khang was influential in helping to launch ChildFund Pass It Back, a regional sport for development curriculum supported by Asia Rugby and World Rugby, recruiting and managing 20 Coaches from Xieng Khouang who were trained in rugby and life skills coaching and went back to train teams across two districts in the province.
|Now Lao Khang manages more than 40 Coaches who are leading over 70 teams across three districts in Xieng Khouang – over half of all Coaches and players are female.|
The ChildFund Pass It Back curriculum developed from the pilot in Nonghet has since expanded beyond Laos’ borders, and continued to make its mark nationally – rugby participation numbers in Laos have increased 900% over the past five years and always maintained over 50% female participation at both the Coach and player level.
Lao Khang’s tireless work has made this growth – and all of the Coach training, player recruitment, training sessions and tournament management – possible.
As her rugby skills improved playing with the Vientiane Lions, Lao Khang was also selected for the DAC Lao Women’s National Team. Since 2014, Khang represented her country at international tournaments in Thailand, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore including the 2014 Asian Games and the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.
In 2014, Lao Khang was awarded a Global Sports Development’s Athletes in Excellence Award. As part of this award, she earned a scholarship to study English and used the opportunity to study in Hong Kong at several stages throughout 2015-2018.
This May, Lao Khang become the first Xieng Khouang Province native and Hmong language speaker to earn a World Rugby Coach Educator qualification, and now helps lead World Rugby courses in Laos as well as helping with coaching courses in Vietnam.
She has recruited her siblings to participate in rugby as well – her sisters, Vue Khang and See Khang have both played for the senior and junior DAC Lao National Teams respectively and See Khang has also been trained to deliver ChildFund Pass It Back sessions to 4 teams in Paek District.
Two younger Khang siblings are also Champa Ban powered by ChildFund Pass It Back players in their communities.
Lao Khang has forged a path for young men and women to connect and learn through sport – and it is an honour for that success to be recognised on the international stage.
As rugby continues to grow in Laos – through its youth rugby program, club teams, and elite program – understanding the opportunities created for thousands of players by influential leaders like Lao Khang is key to building and sustaining the sport.
The LRF joins Lao Khang in thanking all of its partners and supporters who have made Lao Khang’s success possible, including ChildFund Australia, Australian Aid, Asia Rugby and World Rugby.
Many thanks to Platinum Sponsor DAC, who have been a longtime supporter of the LRF’s Elite program granting Lao Khang and many other young players and Coaches across Laos opportunities to travel and inspire others.
DAC’s support for the elite program is bolstered by the generous donations from player sponsors who have supported young leaders like Lao Khang to reach international heights over the past years.
Many individual player sponsors and donors have contributed to this success and the LRF thanks all of the community who has generously provided funds and support to make these achievements possible.