Tuoi Tre News had a conversation with UN Women Vietnam Head of Office Elisa Fernandez Saenz to discuss women's rights and Vietnam's progress in this field.
UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
A global champion of women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.
This year's International Women’s Day is a time to look back and celebrate the progress we’ve made for women. Looking back on the progress of Vietnam in its fight for the empowerment of women in the past year, what will you celebrate?
In Vietnam, the 8th of March or International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day of the year to celebrate the contribution of women to the development of the country. On this day, Vietnamese women often receive beautiful flowers and small gifts from their husbands or work supervisors, or they will get a one-time offer to do the household chores from the men in their lives.
Yet, the intention and the spirit of IWD are much more than a one-day acknowledgment. It is the day where we take stock of how much progress we have made and the remaining gaps ahead to realizing women’s rights and gender equality in every corner of the world.
In Vietnam, we have seen remarkable progress on women’s rights and leadership in some areas, notably on access to education and maternal health and in strengthening the legal and institutional framework for gender equality.
The revised Labor Code that was approved by National Assembly in November last year has added a number of provisions that aim to promote and protect women’s rights further.
Five significant changes include: a reduced retirement age gap between men and women (from five- to a two-year gap), the removal of a ban on women in some types of jobs, supporting workers (both male and female) in childcare by requesting the state and employers to plan and organize daycare facilities and kindergartens, ensuring equal rights to reproductive health care and child-rearing by recognizing male workers’ entitlement to paternity leave, and an enhanced definition of sexual harassment in the workplace.
What are UN Women’s recommendations for Vietnam to advance gender equality?
Gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls remain an overwhelming injustice across the globe. Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality.
In Vietnam, serious concerns remain. While the National Assembly has its first chairwoman, 72.7 percent of delegates at the National Assembly are still men, and there is currently no female minister.
A gender pay gap of 13 percent persists in wages, with a continuing concentration of women in low-paid jobs in the informal sector, who are outside the scope of the Labor Code, without access to social protection.
Prevalence of violence against women and girls remains too high (with 58 percent of ever-married women having experienced one form of violence by their husband) and there is an imbalance in the sex-ratio at birth (112 boys / 100 girls).
On average, women do three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. That is at least two extra hours every day.
Ethnic minority women and girls face more challenges and gender inequality compared with the Kinh (Vietnamese) group.
This demonstrates the persistence of gender biases and higher values appointed to males, which continues to fuel discrimination against women.
|Elisa Fernandez Saenz, Head of Office of UN Women Vietnam, is seen in this provided photo.|
As the ASEAN Chair for 2020 and a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2020-21, Vietnam has unique and synergistic opportunities to showcase its leading role in promoting gender equality in the region and the world.
We need to promote women’s participation in leadership and decision-making roles in all sectors: government, private sectors, and social organizations.
We need to address the persistent social and cultural norms that discriminate, and we need initiatives and commitments to be fully resourced.
We need to invest in social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure to support the increased productivity and economic viability of women’s work in the informal economy.
For lasting change, we also need new mechanisms for focused collective action, with accountability and clear monitoring and evaluation frameworks for the national commitment on gender equality.
What will be the focus of UN Women Vietnam for the coming year? Are there any key projects you are excited to start or continue working on for 2020?
UN Women will continue to support the people and the government of Vietnam to further promote gender equality by enhancing women’s economic empowerment, strengthening women’s voices and capacity in climate activities, ending violence against women and girls, improving women’s access to justice, and making gender equality a key part of the national legal framework, policies and plans.
This year, UN Women, together with feminists across the world and the governments of Mexico and France, will convene the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City from May 7 to 8, and in Paris from July 7 to 10.
The Generation Equality Forum will launch a set of six catalytic Action Coalitions to drive investment and produce tangible, irreversible results on gender equality. Action Coalitions are global, innovative, multi-stakeholder partnerships that will mobilize governments, civil society, international organizations, and the private sector to catalyze collective action for game-changing results across generations for girls and women and accelerate progress toward gender equality and partnerships.
We hope that Vietnam will be an active part of the Generation Equality Coalitions this year and in the years ahead.