New strategy to ensure women's equality
Ha Noi - Viet Nam launched last Friday its national strategy for the advancement of women until 2010 to give women a real stake in all aspects of society.
The strategy, approved by the Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, focuses on four key areas of women's concerns: employment, education and training, health and safety, leadership and decision making.
Mme Ha Thi Khiet, President of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW ) and Viet Nam Womenπs Union (VWU) stressed that "women are laborers and mothers as well as the first human's teachers. Therefore, the womenπs role, material and spirit life profoundly impact on the future of the Vietnamese generations."
Women of Viet Nam account for 51.8% of the total population and 52% of the labour force. Gender equity is enshrined in the Constitution of Viet Nam and in many policies of the Government. This has led to the current relatively high Gender Development Index (GDI) in Viet Nam, compared to other countries in the region and countries with a similar GDP. In 2001, Viet Nam ranks 89 among 162 nations in terms of gender equality, according to UNDP Human Development Report (HDR).
The rate of women in the Vietnamese National Assembly is the most significant indicator for women in Viet Nam. Viet Nam has the highest rate for the Asian region, and is higher than or equal to that of many highly developed countries. Vietnamese women hold 26% seats in parliament versus 36.4% in Norway which ranks first in terms of womenπs political participation or 13.8% the U.S, according to the HDR. The new Strategy sets target to bring this rate to 33% in the coming years.
However, ensuring women are involved in decision-making processes from communes to the national level, remains a challenge, especially for ethnic minority and rural women who are most isolated from decision-making processes. "By giving women a real voice from grassroots to Parliament house, enforceable rights to protect them, we are supporting the most powerful, proven driver of sustainable human development and that is women" said Mr. Jordan Ryan, Resident Representative of UNDP, which supported, along with many donors,, the situation analysis about gender in Viet Nam.
Although women in Viet Nam benefit from high health, education and gender equity indicators - as illustrated by the GDI - women still fall behind men in education and health statistics. The spread of HIV/AIDS is also a great concern for women due to their higher vulnerability. On average, men have obtained more formal education than women, according to the General Statistical Office/UNDP "Living Standards in an Economic Boom - the Case of Viet Nam". 'For instance, while 2.7% of men have at least a university degree, the equivalent figure for women is just 1.6%.' At the other end, 27% of men do not even have a primary school diploma, while for women this figure is 42%.
UNDP will start a new project aimed at further improving the capacity of NCFAW to enable full and effective implementation of the Plan of Action to 2005 and integrating gender issues in government policies, procedures and practices at all levels. It will help move gender issues from the margin to the mainstream.