Opening Remarks National Commission for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW) Celebration Of 20 Years

Oct 17, 2013

Time:     8:00 – 13:30
Date:      Thursday, October 17, 2013
Location: Melia, Ballroom 2, First Floor
Event:     National Commission for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW)
Celebration Of 20 Years Of NCFAW And High-Level Policy Dialogue On Improving Women’s Representation in Leadership and Management Positions
Madam Nguyen Thi Doan, Excellency Vice President of the State of Viet Nam

Madame Ha Thi Khiet, Secretary of Politburo, President of Mass Mobilization Committee

Excellency Ms. Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister of MOLISA, Chair of MOLISA

Honourable Ms. Trương Thị Mai, Chairwoman of the NA Committee for Social Affairs, Chairwoman of the Women’s Caucus

Honourable current and former leaders of the Party, Government and National Assembly of Viet Nam

I am deeply honoured to participate on behalf of UNDP in today’s celebration.  The level of attendance clearly pays tribute to the importance and relevance of NCFAW and its work over the past 20 years.  The UN Agencies in Viet Nam are proud to have supported your work over the years and look forward to collaboration going forward.  Today we congratulate the National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW) for its great contribution to improving gender equality and strengthening women advancement in Viet Nam. Over the past 20 years, NCFAW has played a key role in establishing the strong legal framework that guides Viet Nam’s approach to achieving gender equality.  The Law on Gender Equality as well as the National Strategy and Action Program have laid out a clear path to remove discriminatory practices and to change structures and processes that are barriers to the advancement of women in all sectors of the society.

Let me also thank NCFAW for organizing this policy dialogue and bringing together all partners responsible for the advancement of women in leadership positions.  Importantly, the National Strategy on Gender Equality for the period 2011-2020 sets a target for the next election in 2016 of a minimum of 35% women’s representation. As Vietnam currently only has 24 percent women in the National Assembly, significant change and action are required to reach the target.

The achievements of NCFAW’s work over the past 20 years clearly include the advancement of many leaders present here today who are excellent role models for the future leaders.  Today’s event will discuss some solutions and actions to increase representation of women in public office.

Firstly, one very simple but concrete step is ensuring that one in two nominees is a woman. Also in government a similar concerted effort could be made to nominate more female qualified officials for higher office.  According to the Women’s Union, in the previous three elections, only 32 to 34 percent of the candidates were women – that is  failure to achieve the target already at nomination stage.  Ensuring gender parity on the ballot is a starting point for achieving the national target. There are many highly qualified women available to stand for nomination, but they need to be nominated to compete.

A second action is to actively recruit and promote skilled women and to invest in women. Women too need opportunities for further study and to develop their career. Recent studies found that there was limited human resource planning with the intention of increasing the number of women in senior level government positions. According to a study by the Center for Women Studies, “there is almost no guidance and specific regulations on percentage women in recruitment, planning, training, re-training, rotation and appointment.” and the study goes on to suggest that, “Without a clear plan and measures in place, the targets will not be met.”

The third suggestion which has been under discussion for a long time is the retirement age that currently discriminates against women, because many women are due to retire at an age when they have just reached the peak of their career or a position of seniority. Differential retirement age hinders women’s equal right to work, to the same employment opportunities, to training, to promotion and to job security – and therefore fails to meet the standard of substantive equality set out in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

Fourth but not least, is the importance of society at large projecting positive images of, and actively promoting, the role of men in sharing the household workload. We know that today, many women’s ability to engage in political office and public service is restricted by societal, cultural and family beliefs that household work or childcare is a women’s domain only. Attending to children’s school work or ailing parents may not be considered a legitimate reason for the absence of a man from the work place. And at home, a woman might be laden with guilt for not assuming primary care-taking duties. A change in the attitude and behavior of both women and men and society at large on this point will no doubt enable more women to compete for public office.

These four messages have been captured in a short film on increasing women’s representation in Viet Nam produced by the government with UNDP support. This film will be shown later today during the Policy Dialogue session. I hope this film will be used widely to raise awareness of the government-set target of a minimum of 35 percent women’s representation in the next election.

In closing, I encourage partners present here today to go beyond exploring challenges and promote action. Adopting the principle of one in two nominees to be a woman, could go a long way.

Let me also take this opportunity to raise here the importance of the preparation towards Beijing + 20 review in 2015 over the next two years. The role of NCFAW could be critical in coordinating the government’s review of Viet Nam’s progress since 1995 to implement Beijing Platform for Action.  This would be an opportunity for Viet Nam to show to the world the progress that it has made and review its priorities to be integrated in the next National Programme on Gender Equality.

The United Nations Agencies remain ready to support Viet Nam in advancing gender equality as an internationally agreed development goal and as a national commitment to action, as expressed in the National Gender Strategy. From UNDP’s side, let me reaffirm our commitment to assist the advancement of women’s leadership and ensuring women’s full and equal representation in decision making at all levels.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Excellencies, thank you again for the invitation to the UN to join in today’s outstanding celebration.  We look forward to interesting discussions and commitments in today’s policy dialogue. I wish all of you good health, happiness and success.

Xin cam on!

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