Karen Lanyon, the Australian Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, talked to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper after she held the maiden Women in Vietnam 2018 Conference in the southern Vietnamese metropolis earlier this week.
Lanyon is a senior career officer of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Prior to her position in Ho Chi Minh City for the 2016-18 term, she served as Minister Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Indonesia and Deputy Head of Mission in Cambodia, as well as postings to Jakarta and Singapore.
She has also served as Foreign Affairs and Trade Regional Director in Sydney, Assistant Secretary, Africa Branch and Assistant Secretary, Public Diplomacy Branch and worked extensively in APEC and ASEAN.
Lanyon holds a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws from the Australian National University.
* This world cannot change if the status of women is not changed. Is that what inspires you to hold the Vietnam Women's Conference 2018 on October 15 and 16?
I agree with this statement and yes that is what inspired me to hold the Women in Vietnam 2018 Conference. The Conference is something very personal for me that I wanted to achieve while in Vietnam. I, and the Australian Government, are dedicated to gender equity and improving the lives of women and girls in Vietnam and Australia. Our countries cannot develop to their full potential if 50% of our populations are denied equal access to education, pay, career opportunities and protection from violence and exploitation.
* The public, especially the Vietnamese women, has received so much great value and great message from this conference. Why did you choose topics like How to project a winning image, Women/s health (breast cancer & material health), Human trafficking, Stopping violence against women, Women Pioneers - women in leadership and the importance of mentoring and support networks, Modern Day Taboos and How to break the silence - women's health and well-being to put on the conference this time?
These are all issues affecting women and girls in both Vietnam and Australia and often are topics that people do not wish to discuss in public. But if we do not begin national conversations and national education campaigns we cannot bring about change. I am privileged to be in a position where I can begin those public conversations and, I hope, change.
* In all the past seminars, conferences and workshops, what is the content that you are most interested in and want to touch women most? Why?
I want to give young women and girls practical skills and tools to be the best they can be in their careers and their lives. As a breast cancer survivor, I also want women to understand that cancer is not a death sentence and education and prevention can save lives. It saved mine.
* Modern Vietnamese women are always concerned about how to balance work, family and personal interests. As a active and busy female consul-general, how do you balance all of the three?
I have strong support from my friends and family but particularly my partner in life – my husband Craig. Without him I could not achieve this balance. It is a true partnership of mutual respect, and trust.
|Australian Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City Karen Lanyon. Photo: Supplied|
* You may have your own problems. Have you ever had a problem or a trouble that made you think that if you were a man, you would not fall into that crisis?
My father raised his three daughters to be strong and believe they could achieve anything they wanted so I have been very lucky in that regard. In my early career I was often the only women in rooms of men in suits and uniforms that was not serving tea. This has changed over the last 20 years. Despite that, we still have a long way to go.
* In your opinions, what makes Vietnamese women different?
Vietnamese women actually run Vietnam - from the board rooms to the rice fields of the country women shape Vietnam and Vietnamese families. They are unbelievably strong and resilent.
* Do you think Vietnamese women have developed/been better during your time in Vietnam?
Yes I think things have developed in a positive way and Australia will continue to support these changes through programs like Investing in Women and our other gender programs across Vietnam.
I heard during our conference that Vietnam is now above both its ASEAN neighbors and Europe and the USA in the percentage of women CEOs and board members in the private sector. That is impressive.
* What are your most desirable accomplishments when you undertake missions in Vietnam?
Vietnam was my chosen posting after Los Angeles and I am very grateful I was granted my wish. The Women in Vietnam 2018 Conference is one of my proudest achievements along with my work on breast cancer and promoting opportunities for women in education and business.
* We know that you will finish your term in Vietnam in December. How do you expect Vietnam to develop in the future?
I think the future for Vietnam is very bright. It’s most precious asset is its people – particularly its women. They will ensure Vietnam reaches its true potential as a global leader.
|Karen Lanyon at the Australia Day 2017. Photo: Supplied|