Speech at Cambridge Viet Nam women’s leadership programme: Empowerment of women in the public sector in the context of international economic integration

09 Dec 2011

Speaker: Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator
Date   :    December 9th, 2011
Event  :   Annual Conference “Human Resource Development  – Innovative Approaches to strengthen women in the public sector”
Venue  :  Sheraton Hotel

Honourable Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party, Vice Chair of Viet Nam National Assembly,

Honourable Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister of MOLISA and Chairwoman of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women,

Honourable Nguyen Phuong Nga, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and National Director of the Empowerment of Women in the Public Sector in the Context of Economic Integration,

Distinguished Participants from Viet Nam and overseas,

I would particularly like to welcome Vice Minister Mme Nga as the new Director of the project of Empowerment of Women in the Public Sector. I look forward to working together closely in the future.  

I am very pleased to be with you this morning at this important conference on innovative human resource approaches to strengthening women’s roles in the public sector. 

Empowering women and strengthening women’s participation in decision-making is at the heart of sustainable socio-economic development. If Viet Nam is to continue its impressive development progress it is essential to mobilize the full potential of its workforce, both men and women.

At present, women are under-represented in decision-making at all levels. For example, only 9 percent of ministers are women.  At the legislative level, currently only 24 percent of the National Assembly and 25 percent of People’s Councils seats are held by women while we see only one woman in the politburo.  Greater efforts are needed to meet the target set by government of a minimum of 35 percent representation by 2016.

Viet Nam is to be congratulated on its strong legal framework for promoting gender equality.  The development of the National Strategy on Gender Equality and the recently approved National Program on Gender Equality is a clear indication of the government’s commitment to achieving greater gender equality in Viet Nam and promoting women’s participation and leadership at all levels. Yet more now needs to be done to make these commitments a reality.

The UN is committed to this effort and will continue to support women and leadership initiatives at both the national and global level.  In Viet Nam, examples include the Empowerment of Women in the Public Sector project as well as the UN’s support to the Women’s Caucus. 

I would like to take the opportunity to highlight two key recommendations.

The first is the need to boost investment in human resource development, specifically of women in the public sector. 

Poor human resource development is one reason for the low rates of women in state management.  Although women make up a large portion of the civil service, their positions are primarily at the entry level, and few reach senior management positions. For example, it is estimated that only 9-12 percent  of Director General positions are held by women.

Secondly, it is important to create an enabling environment for women in the public sector.  This will ensure that women are not only represented in government, but that they direct policies and programmes.

A first step is to remove the discrimination in retirement age between women and men. The current system limits women’s chances for promotion, access to training and development, and forces women to end their careers just when their male counterparts are reaching the peak of theirs.

The second step is to ensure women are given equal access to training and further education as their male counterparts.  This needs to be done in a long-term sustainable manner within government higher learning institutes.

The third step is to continue the reform of the civil service to implement transparent and merit based recruitment processes and incentives linked to performance assessments. Cities such as Da Nang, are leading the way in this regard and we encourage other provinces to follow.

Today we will hear from experts and women leaders from Viet Nam and the Asia Pacific region, as well as our distinguished Ambassadors from Canada and New Zealand.  I hope that this conference will build a stronger understanding among all partners of practical ways forward to ensure women can participate in shaping the policies and programmes that will bring about economic growth, social development and greater gender equality in Viet Nam. 

In closing I would like to underline the importance of working together.  It is only through collective action that we will see an increase in women’s participation.  We very much look forward to hearing the conclusions from today’s conference, and to supporting your priorities for change in this area.

I wish you a fruitful and enjoyable day.