Unleasing the power of women

Feb 8, 2002

Ha Noi - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of the Netherlands today provided US$900,000 to a project that will support the Government of Viet Nam to further promote gender equality. This three-year project aims to improve the capacity of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW) to provide policy advice on gender issues and to mainstream gender issues in elected bodies from central to local levels.

Under this project, assistance will be provided to integrate gender into national development plans. The project will also support Gender sensitive training for newly elected Members of the National Assembly and other key policy-makers. The new initiative will also support research and analysis of key issues confronting women's equality. This project builds on a previous UNDP project: "Capacity Development for the Implementation of the National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women to 2000" which has helped develop the new Plan of Action.

The newly arrived UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Jordan Ryan, noted that this was the first project he had the opportunity to sign since returning to Viet Nam. "The support of UNDP to this important project demonstrates our commitment to womenπs equality", said Ryan. "The promotion of womenπs empowerment is the best guarantee for Viet Nam to achieve its ambitious development goals. Unleashing the power of women is central to Viet Namπs ambitious task of further reducing poverty." Ryan added that mainstreaming gender concerns is the best way for women to have more influence over the decisions affecting their lives.

The Ambassador of the Netherlands, Mr. Gerben de Jong, also attended the signing ceremony. The Government of the Netherlands and UNDP are strong partners in the effort to promote womenπs equality. Ambassador de Jong noted that this project provides great opportunities to integrate gender into the national policy for poverty reduction such as the Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy currently under formulation.

This project will also help to achieve the specific objectives and targets set out in the new strategy for the advancement of women until 2010. This strategy, recently approved by Prime Minister Pham Van Khai and launched last week aims to give women a real stake in all aspects of society. The strategy addresses four key areas of womenπs concerns: employment, education and training, health and safety, leadership and decision making.

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% in 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 the 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 Ryan.

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