Speech at Women leadership conference

13 Sep 2010

Speaker: Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date   :    13 September 2010
Event  :    Women leadership conference

Your Excellencies;
Madame Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, and Chair of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women;
Madame Nguyen Thi Thang Hoa, President of the Viet Nam Women’s Union;
Mr Dao Viet Trung, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Mr. Nguyen Duy Thang, Vice Minister of Home Affairs;
Ms. Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Central Commission for Discipline Inspection;
Mrs. Alice Perkins;
Distinguished national and international guests;

We are all here this morning because we realize the importance of investing in women and want to find new ways to strengthen their participation in decision-making and leadership. This is a subject that we at UNDP, and the wider UN, see as very important. As a woman leader, it is also a subject that is close to my heart personally.

Empowering women and strengthening women’s participation in decision-making and leadership at the national and local level is at the heart of sustainable socio-economic development. If Viet Nam is to continue its impressive development record in this era of international economic integration, it will be essential to find ways to mobilize the full potential of its workforce, both men and women. We know that when they are equipped with the skills and political support to participate fully, women can play a strong role in their communities and countries.

Investing in women and girls is essential if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And investment in this one area can drive MDG progress across all the goals. For instance, evidence shows that children born to women with some formal education are more likely to survive to their fifth birthday, receive adequate nutrition, and be immunized and enrolled in school. In this sense, investing in women and girls is a real MDG break-through strategy.

In itself, this project is making an important contribution to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. Viet Nam has already made significant progress in this area. Government commitment to gender equality and the advancement of women is clear. There are strong women leaders in the National Assembly and in business. However, more still needs to be done to ensure women have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. And by taking both male and female points of view into account, more balanced decisions are made.

From UN experience around the world and the policy research carried out by this project we know that three things are needed to see real change in this area.

Firstly, we need a strong political will. It is exactly such a political will which has enabled a developing country like Rwanda to recently overtake Sweden in terms of the number of women parliamentarians. It is clear that Viet Nam has given great attention and support to gender equality from the earliest days of its constitution. The strong support this project has received and the recent policy milestones such as the 2007 Gender Equality Law and Resolution No.11 show a strong and increasing political will to consolidate Viet Nam’s record in gender equality, and in particular increase the number of women participating in decision-making at national and local levels.

This strong will is necessary to push through the challenge of the second important factor – effective implementation. That is what today is all about. I am very pleased to see the emphasis on how Viet Nam’s relatively robust high-level policy framework can be delivered on the ground at national, and especially local, level. The local level is often the biggest challenge for many countries, especially for a country as large as Viet Nam. However, increasing women’s participation in decision-making is critical to ensuring women are effectively represented in all decisions affecting them, from health and education to economic policies.

The third critical success factor is capacity. We know that building capacity is the foundation of sustainable change, and we are very pleased that the project is working with partners in this area. The scholarships to Cambridge, the research grants, as well as the many women trained around Viet Nam on leadership – all these are examples of the kind of capacity-building this project is carrying out at an individual level. Capacity-building can also be important at an organizational level. In the context of this conference and project it could mean support to individual agencies, who wish to pioneer the effective implementation of the gender equality law to increase the number of women leaders and the talent pool of qualified women for future leadership positions.

This conference also supports our joint priorities in two more important ways: firstly, in raising the profile of the importance of gender equality as a whole and of increasing women’s participation in particular. And secondly in promoting networking opportunities between us, so that we can share experience, learn from each other and identify partners for future initiatives. I would urge you to take every opportunity to talk to new people and share your own experience actively in today’s sessions.

I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Vietnamese Government – the National Committee for the Advancement for Women, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Viet Nam Women’s Union and the Central Party of Viet Nam for their active and excellent management of the programme – and for the very strong support from senior leaders in particular.

I would also like to thank you all for coming and once again thank the conference organizers for such excellent arrangements in organizing this highly topical event. We very much look forward to hearing the conclusions and recommendations and to supporting your priorities for change in this area. 

Working together, we can help ensure that incentives and support to women to take on leadership roles are scaled up and help create a future generation of strong women leaders.

I wish you all a fruitful and enjoyable day!