Putting Gender on the National Policy Agenda

26 Oct 2000

Ha Noi - The National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW) is organizing a two-day workshop on 26-27 October 2000 to launch the findings of their recent UNDP-supported research report: Situation Analysis and Policy Recommendations to Promote the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality in Viet Nam. At this same workshop, two other gender-related reports will be presented: a new global World Bank report, Engendering Development, and Equality of Economic Opportunity for Women Under Vietnamese Law, commissioned by the World Bank. This event is part of an ongoing project to promote gender in public policy (implemented by NCFAW andNCFAW and supported by UNDP and the Governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as the Ford FoundtionFoundation, and being implemented by NCFAW).

In her opening remarks, Mmers. Tran Thi Mai Huong, Permanent Secretary Ha Thi Khiet, President of NCFAW, said, ".The. The Government of Viet Nam understands that women's active participation is crucial for a national sustainable development, as they are both the subjects and objects of the development process. The National 10 year Strategy and the 5 Year Plan of Action to the Year 2005 are key official documents which represent the Government's commitment to gender equality and the advancement of women in Viet Nam...."

NCFAW's Gender Situation Analysis report is designed to give policy makers a better understanding of the structural causes as well as the socio-economic implications of gender inequality within the following sectors: employment and economic status, education and human resource development, health and safety, and leadership and political participation. It is envisaged as a contribution to the ongoing national consultation and dialogue conducted in the context of developing sectoral strategies and plans, and in particular the Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2005 and the Ten Year Strategy for the Advancement of Women.

"The voices of women and the analysis of independent researchers reflected in these reports will ensure that these important national policy decisions will be grounded in the reality of women's experience," said Edouard Wattez, UNDP Resident Representative. "We hope it is such voices that will promote positive and meaningful change for Vietnamese women and men."

According to Engendering Development, considerable advances have been made in gender equality across the world in recent decades. However, despite advances in gender equality across the globe, manifestations of gender discrimination remain pervasive in many dimensions of life. "The Report looks at the relationships between gender equality and economic development, and states that gender equality is a core development issue œ a development objective in its own right, as well as a factor in strengthening countries' abilities to grow economically, to reduce poverty, and to govern effectively." said Andrew Mason, Senior Economist in the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, World Bank.

"Viet Nam is one of the countries that has made considerable advances in gender equality in recent decades. Gender equality rights are enshrined in its Constitution and major laws as well as in several policies. However, there remains a gap between these laws and policies and their implementation. We also hope that the Government will take up emerging gender issues related to, for instance, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and trafficking, male responsibility in reproductive health, and gender impacts of globalization in its next Five Year Plan period," said Andrew Steer, World Bank Country Director in Viet Nam."Viet Nam is one of the countries that has made considerable advances in gender equality in recent decades. Gender equality rights are enshrined in its Constitution and major laws as well as in several policies. However, there remains a significant gap between these laws and policies and their implementation, and this needs to be addressed. Also, we hope that the Government will take up emerging gender issues related to, for instance, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and trafficking, male responsibility in reproductive health, and gender impacts of trade liberalization and globalization in its next Five Year Plan," said Andrew Steer, World Bank Country Director in Viet Nam.

During the workshop policy makers and donors will also discuss policy recommendations to promote gender equality in Viet Nam, which will then be used as a basis for a subsequent national workshop to develop the next Ten Year Strategy and Five Year Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women.

The NCFAW report stresses that there is a need to strengthen gender sensitive policies to generate long-term change, rather than just temporary measures. Such policies should include distributive policies focusing on de facto property rights and changes in the division of labour in paid and unpaid production through increased participation of women in the waged labour force and increased participation of men in unpaid household work. Educational and retraining programmes are recommended to prepare women for the requirements of technological change.

Negative gender stereotypes which reinforce the unequal power relations between men and women must be challenged, whilst gender targets and recommendations should be integrated into mainstream policies and plans.

"The development of this report reflects a participatory consultative approach to policy advice. NCFAW consulted with a wide range of stakeholders including grassroots women from around the country, government officials, experts and donors," said Mia Hyuyn, UNDP Technical Advisor to the NCFAW project. "During a series of consultation meetings with grassroots women, a common refrain was that society 'respects men and looks down on women' (Vietnamese translation). This suggests that any strategy for gender equality must address gender stereotypes and patriarchal thinking still deeply embedded within society." 'Women are less likely to talk in meetings - particularly when men dominate the discussion, and when they do, women generally address issues that they consider to be related to their areas of domestic responsibility, such as children's education, production loans for women, alcoholism amongst men, and women's security. Closer analysis of these statements reveals that although women do not consider their ideas to be 'political issues' worth discussing, their concerns are directly related to macro economic policy: for example impacts of cuts in public spending on basic social services such as health and education, and under-investment in rural infrastructure. What is needed here are local level training programmes to assist grassroots women and community leaders to interpret women's concerns into gender sensitive policy recommendations, and the advocacy skills to articulate these concerns in the appropriate fora. This would also empower grassroots women to take on more of a leadership role in the community.'

A three-day national conference will be organized (8-10 November 2000) to report on the implementation of the Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2000, and to consult with Provincial and Central level Government authorities on finalizing the Second Plan of Action to the Year 2005. The conference will also revise and strengthen the role and functions of NCFAW and the VWU. Representatives from the Committees for the Advancement of Women (CFAW) from fifty Ministries and central agencies and 61 Provinces will attend the November conference.

Contact Information

UNDP Public Information Unit at (04) 942 1495