Director, Lao Sericulture Company
Kommaly Chanthavong founded a cooperative in 1976 for the production of Lao silk which she still heads. This cooperative teaches women updated traditional skills in raising silkworms, making natural dyes and weaving traditional patterns. The successful marketing of products made, provides a fair and steady income to several hundred previously very poor families.
Kommaly was 11 years old when her village in the North of Laos was destroyed by US bombers attacking the Ho Chi Minh Trail. She walked to the capital, Vientiane, bringing with her silk weaving skills that her family had developed and passed on over generations. Kommaly met many desperately poor families, displaced from rural areas as a result of the US Secret War and the Lao Civil War, but who lacked marketable skills. Kommaly was inspired by the situation of these women and their children to found a cooperative which initially comprised only ten members. There are now over 3000 members.
In a model farm in Xieng Khouang Province which she manages with her similarly dedicated husband, Kommaly offers courses to people from all over Laos on the production of high quality textiles: from growing mulberry trees to raising silkworms, to spinning the ultra-fine silk threads, to preparing natural dyes and weaving traditional patterns.
In 2005 Kommaly was amongst a thousand women world-wide nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution in strengthening the position of women in Lao society by giving them economic stability and thus improving the opportunities of future generations.
See also: Abstract of Kommaly Chanthavong's paper:
Silk: Innovation for Social and Cultural Sustainability