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Thank you, ladies!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 10:24 GMT+7
Thank you, ladies!
Vietnamese women wear traditional long dresses at Hue Citadel in Thua Thien-Hue Province. Photo: Nhat Linh / Tuoi Tre

Although, it could be a bit soggy, I’m sure we’ll still make women happy!

You'd better get that wallet and buy a treat for the women who fill your life with food, love, advice, management services, and reminders to get so-and-so from the shops on the way home, while taking the kids to school on time and all the other services of a five-star hotel!

Another bright spark in an otherwise horrible year, Vietnamese Women’s Day falls on October 20, marked by tributes to the role women play in creating harmony and peace with families -- the heart of Vietnamese culture -- as well as their economic and sociological contributions to the nation’s prosperity.

Even if it will be harder to get the flowers home in the rain, the gesture will still be appreciated by the hard-working ladies of Vietnam. Chocs would be better and cooking a meal can be a stunning, surprising gift for your women.

This is a far tougher year for many due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of work and income and trying to educate the kids while overcoming these obstacles have tested the Vietnamese harder than many wealthier nations that have been to fund large-scale relief. It is even harder for women who are responsible for a range of activities which keep families and relationships together but are mostly unpaid work. 

Most, including women, rarely consider just how much women do in Vietnam. It’s taken for granted, just part of the way of life here, yet their roles are probably the most important in our society. And this is on top of the expectation to work and contribute to the family’s income and stability.

One thing I often think is overlooked is the role of young girls, teenagers, and grandmothers in all this. Even I’ve tended to consider the day to be more about romantic moments between adults than a salute to the female gender in general. There are still tens of thousands of young girls helping with farming, babysitting, cooking, washing, shopping, and collecting food and firewood. 

Intriguingly, I’ve rarely heard any mention from either local men or women about the all-important family money management duties that women perform. Is it a form of discrimination or just taken for granted? This can also be an incredibly frustrating role if men are out of work and demand money to go and drink or gamble – a social problem that hasn’t gotten any smaller.

Grandmothers also need acknowledgement for looking after children and performing secondary supporting roles within the family. Fortunately, Vietnamese honor family occasionally more deeply than in many Western cultures and the bond that often arises between the young and old here is quite strong. Many of my former students frequently named their grandparents, aunts, and uncles as their favorite people within their family, although this could also have a lot to do with mums and dads always pushing and demanding more from their kids as they grow up!

But it’s all not doom and gloom. Women's running businesses in Vietnam is growing each year, even in rural areas as men work in other provinces (and overseas) and send money back to their family. Female university students now equal the number of males and in many places outnumber the guys. It’s more common these days for women to get paid the same as men and in some circumstances more than that.

Now I know that’s not always true, especially in rural areas where women are expected to work in low-paid jobs, do subsistent farming and suffer from male domination in many forms. And access to education is harder to get in countryside areas also. But laws have changed and with support, many poor women are starting businesses and making money.

Fortunately, Vietnam is also fairly accepting women’s rights to dress attractively without condemnation or punishment, in the urban and modernized areas at least – unlike quite a few other Asian countries. Women in Vietnam lead more independent lives separate from or totally free from men and the traditional expectations of getting married relatively young.

So, it’s not just a day to celebrate beauty but also progress. A time to reflect on and appreciate all the little things that females of all ages do to brighten up and improve the lives around them. It's a reminder that women don’t only create life physically but also socially. This is food for thought that women do a million and one invisible things to make everything run smoothly. Men might run projects or be in charge of grand things yet women manage entire lifetimes – from birth to death.

The gift and the thought you give on Vietnamese Women’s Day should carry within it some notion of a women’s abilities and that indescribable capacity to provide the true glue of our lives – love.

Happy Vietnamese Women’s Day!

Stivi Cooke / Tuoi Tre News Contributor

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