Demokratische Republik Laos: Douangdeuane Bounyavong

I want to make the wonderful world of books accessible to all children.

— Douangdeuane Bounyavong

Douangdeuane Bounyavong (born 1947) is dedicated to the promotion of literacy and cultural experience through books in a country with a very limited reading tradition, due to lack of education and resources. She founded and is now directing and writing for a small independent publishing house, which focuses on titles for children and women, securing the necessary funding through successful networking abroad. She has established many libraries in rural regions and is working to improve the working conditions and quality of teachers.

Douangdeuane looks very intellectual with her delicate features and alert eyes behind gold-rimmed glasses. She goes around wearing a sinh, the traditional Laotian silk skirt. As an expert in Lao textiles she has written two volumes on the subject. But her best-known book is her family’s story entitled, "When Mother was in Prison". Douang comes from a distinguished background. Her grandfather was a prominent poet and scholar, her deceased husband was one of Laos’ foremost authors. She went to a teacher’s college in Vientiane, studied in France and was later head of a high school. "I grew up with the love of books and find it sad that most children in my country know nothing of that wealth", she muses. "They learn to read in school, but afterwards they forget it. "In fact it is hard to encounter a reader in Laos. So, in her small private publishing company, Douang concentrates on publishing high quality books for children, often illustrated by one of her two daughters who work in her enterprise. In order to make the books widely accessible, she has founded libraries all over the country and she gives story-telling seminars to teachers, "You must introduce the children to the beauty of the imaginary world to make them want to read about it," she says. At the same time, she researches women’s and children’s welfare and publishes her suggestions on how to improve these. She raises the finances for her activities by efficient lobbying with NGOs in many different countries. And she never gives up. "Many of my visions I will never be able to realize. But if one dream fails, another one comes to life."