In August 2019, Manoly joined fifteen entrepreneurs from Australia and Southeast Asia on the Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program (A2ELP). This eight-day intensive program delivered across three cities – Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Singapore – was an Australian Government initiative to build knowledge of scalable business models to create long-term social impact. The program’s theme was ‘Smart Cities’ where issues such as green infrastructure, water governance, renewable energy, innovative technologies and data analytics were covered.
Manoly found A2ELP to be a very inspiring and encouraging program. It gave her the opportunity to connect with the bright group of Australian and ASEAN change-makers who strive to disrupt business as usual.
“Through the program, I learned to maximise impact investments through entrepreneurship and innovation that puts the well-being of humans and the environment at the heart of my organisations’ agenda,” Manoly said.
Manoly’s involvement with A2ELP highly motivated her to apply the knowledge and skills gained from the program to bring the positive changes into community development and wildlife protection in the Lao PDR.
Currently, Manoly is the Deputy Country Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Laos, a non-profit organisation working to protect wildlife and wild places while ensuring that people and nature can thrive alongside one another. WCS’ core landscapes in Laos include Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park, Bolikhamxay Province and Xe Champhone Wetland Ramsar site. Other thematic programs include counter-wildlife trafficking and wildlife health.
“In Lao PDR, managing, protecting, utilising, and developing large protected area landscapes is a multifaceted challenge and requires a lot of resources and continued dialogues with relevant stakeholders. I’m honoured to be part of the conservation community to safeguard our natural treasures and to inspire people to value nature,” said Manoly.
Last October, Manoly travelled to London to receive a prestigious Mary Robinson Climate Justice Award for her advocacy for rights and dignity of forest rangers who risk their lives to protect forest resources at the frontline.
Apart from her passion to protect the wilderness and improve the lives of forest-dependent communities, Manoly has the enduring love for the art of embroidery, a legacy of her mother’s hometown, which led her to create a social micro-enterprise that provides an alternative income for ethnic women farmers in rural Luang Prabang.
“Involving these women directly in the project for which they are the beneficiaries not only ensures project relevance and sustainability but also ensures that the economic, social and cultural rights are taken into consideration and are protected”, Manoly said.
Manoly is now an active member of the Lao-Australian alumni community who is equipped with skills and capabilities to give back to her nation. She hopes that younger generations would also contribute to the sustainable development of the Lao PDR with passion and high motivation.
“I think this is the right time for emerging leaders to introduce new ideas and make positive changes in Laos. NGOs, individuals and the private sector have increasingly played stronger roles in helping the Government shape and contribute to the country development. I hope my fellow youngsters will not take things for granted. We have greater access to unprecedented opportunities, resources and technology that can give us the answers to most questions. Hence, there should not be an excuse not to prosper in life. I wholeheartedly hope that Lao people will read more. Read with critical thinking, read whatever you can get your hands on. Let’s aim at being part of the solutions, not the problems.” Manoly said.