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Achievements in MDGs implementation underlined

Vietnamese women now account for 25.76% of National Assembly deputies, 23.8% of Provincial People’s Council members, 51.22% of college students, 49.4% of the labor force, and 41.12% of enterprise owners and managers.

This was made known by Ms. Đinh Thị Minh Huyền, Board member of the VPDF’s Council, in a country report submitted to the 6th Roundtable on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) held on April 22nd-23rd in Đà Nẵng, Central Vietnam.
Her paper, titled “A brief review of the implementation of gender equality and empowerment of women in the region and Vietnam”, reads:

I. A brief overview
A report of the Secretary General of the United Nations on February 12, 2010 on a forward-looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 showed that there was not enough progress on gender equality and that redressing gender inequality remains one of the most difficult goals almost everywhere.
An Asia-Pacific Human Development Report (UNDP) has recently shown that the Asia-Pacific region has recorded remarkable economic progress and rapid development in recent decades, yet gender inequality remains in all countries in the region.
In the region, women now live longer and are better educated. In some countries, the number of female students at universities has been increasingly growing as compared with that of male students. The ratio of women’s participation in the labor force has been on the increase. Discriminatory laws have been discarded in some cases and national policies adapted to systematically pursue gender equality. Some countries mainstream gender issues into state policies. However this region still lags behind on some aspects of gender equality in relation to other developing regions of the world. East Asia and the Pacific are going ahead while progress in South Asia is low. South Asia’s rankings for many gender gap indicators – health, adult literacy, economic participation – are close or lower than those in Sub-Saharan Africa. Asia has the highest male-female sex ratio at birth in the world, with sex-selective abortion. A large number of countries in the region have no laws on domestic violence. Where domestic violence laws exist, legislation is not effectively implemented.

II. Vietnam’s implementation of Goal 3: Gender equality and empowerment of women
Gender equality was an important objective set out by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in its first Constitution (1946). Based on the progressive views on gender equality as indicated in the Constitution, Vietnam has gradually institutionalized gender equality laws and policies. Vietnam was among the first six countries in the world that ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1981. Its ratification and scrupulous implementation of CEDAW have positively contributed to the push for gender equality in Vietnam over the past 30 years.
With strong determination and commitment, the Government of Vietnam has carried out a number of positive policies and measures to implement gender equality and promote empowerment of women, and has recorded encouraging achievements. The ratio of women’s participation in the labor force in Vietnam has been increasingly growing thus greatly contributing to the country’s socio-economic development, and to its notable attainment of a number of MDGs: eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality, etc. The awareness of leaders and the public on gender equality has increased, women have been more respected, more equal, and their status in society and the family has been increasingly improved. Gender equality in Vietnam has been regarded by the UN as a light spot in the realization of MDGs.
Since its first Constitution, Vietnam has made remarkable progress in gender equality legislation. The Law on Gender Equality approved by the National Assembly in 2006 constitutes Vietnam’s first legal instrument which specifies in a most comprehensive way the contents of gender equality. It not only amply reflects Vietnam’s policies on gender equality and advancement of women but is also fully in line with the principles of CEDAW. For the first time, the Government of Vietnam has established a state governance agency on gender equality (the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs – MOLISA). The Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence was promulgated in 2007. Vietnam has been regarded as having more progressive gender equality policies and laws than those in many other countries.
According to UNDP Human Development Report 2007/2008, Vietnam ranked 91st out of 157 countries in 2007 in Gender Development Index (GDI) (as compared with 109th out of 177 countries in 2004); and 52nd out of 93 countries in Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) (the first time Vietnam took part in GEM).

Brief specific outcomes:
1. Eradication of gender disparity in education
Education constitutes one of the most important instruments promoting gender equality. Gender equality in education and training is a priority goal of Vietnam’s National Plan of Action, Education for All: 2003-2015, which seeks to eliminate gender discrimination in primary and secondary education by 2005, and to achieve gender equality in education by 2015.
A table of statistics below issued by the Ministry of Education and Training showed that from 2004 to 2009, the proportion of girls at all levels of education (primary, junior secondary, senior secondary, college, university) steadily increased and gender gap was very small. Notably in 2008-2009, the proportions of girls at senior secondary (52.63%) and college levels (51.22%) outnumbered those of boys. With those achievements, Vietnam will certainly attain the goal to eradicate gender disparity in education at all levels by 2015.

Proportion of female students at different education levels
Education levels 2004-2005 2008-2009
Primary 47.67 47.93
Junior secondary 48.27 47.80
Senior secondary 48.93 52.63
College 50.48 51.22
University 46.95 48.49
   Source: Ministry of Education and Training, 2009

Despite that, in higher education, considerable gender disparity remains, particularly, the proportion of female professors was only 5.1% and associate professors 11.6% in 2006. There still exists a gap in education access for girls and women from ethnic minority groups and remote areas.
2. Promoting women to leadership and managerial positions
Women’s participation in leadership and governance positions has considerably increased in both number and qualification. Over the past two decades, Vietnam has always appointed a woman as Vice-President of the Republic. In the current tenure of the National Assembly (2007-2011), female representatives account for 25.76%. With this ratio, Vietnam ranks first among the eight ASEAN countries where parliaments exist, and 31st in the world.
It is of particular importance that the participation of women in key positions of the current National Assembly has significantly improved, including one Vice-Prersident of the National Assembly, three Vice-Chairwomen of the Ethnic Minorities Council, two vice-chairwomen of National Assembly commissions, and 72 members of relevant councils and commissions. With regards to women’s qualification in the National Assembly, 60% of female representatives are university graduates, as compared with 30% in the previous legislature. Female participation has increased in such new areas as economics and security (the Defense and Security Council, the Science, Technology and Environment Council, etc.) as well as in familiar ones.
Participation of women in People’s Councils at all levels has increased between the 1999-2004 and 2005-2009 tenures; from 22.3% to 23.8% at the provincial level and from 16.6% to 20.1% at commune level.
While there is a significant increase in the quantity and quality of female labor , the proportion of women holding leadership and governance positions is still low. Figures from the Ministry of Home Affairs show that the proportion of female ministers or equivalents is only 4.55%; vice-ministers or equivalents 8.4%; department directors or equivalents 5.33%.
3. Women’s participation in socio-economic social development
Women account for 50.48% of the population and 49.4% of the labor force in Vietnam. 83% of women participate in economic activities (as compared with 85% of men). They have played an increasingly important role in socio-economic development in Vietnam. Women make up the majority of the labor force in such fields as health, education, banking, food processing, textile and garment, leatherware and footwear, agriculture, etc.
According to a 2007 Employment Survey, the ratio of women wage-earners in non-agricultural sectors accounts for 47.3%. In other production and business sectors, women account for 46.3%; 41.12% of enterprise owners and managers are women.
In order to improve women’s economic rights, the National Assembly promulgated the revised Land Law in 2003, which for the first time provides that all newly-issued land use certificates must bear the names of both wife and husband. This is an effort to empower women with economic rights, enabling them to access loans for doing business, as well as protecting their rights in special situations (divorce, property split, etc.)
Nevertheless, there is still an income gap between men and women. In general, women’s salaries account for only 87% those of men for the same job. Female employees are still dominant in less-skilled employment areas and hold a smaller share in highly technical jobs.
The maintaining of retirement age for women (55) and men (60) as at present, when women are better educated and live longer than men, is not in line with the Law on Gender Equality and should be revised.
 4. Combating domestic violence, trafficking in women and children
The market economy has brought about opportunities and challenges for families in Vietnam: the widening gap between the rich and the poor, domestic violence, trafficking in women and children, HIV/AIDS, etc. The Government has carried out a number of active measures so as to combat the above problems, yet there has been not much progress. Degrading treatment and domestic violence against women still exist in both urban and rural areas. 64% of married women accept domestic violence as normal. (2007 Survey by General Statistics Office and UNICEF)
III. Reasons for achievements and challenges
1. Achievements
- Strong determination and commitment by top leaders to implementation of gender equality and empowerment of women.
- The Government has made great efforts and taken a number of effective measures: promulgation of the Law on Gender Equality; the Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence; establishment of state governance agency on gender equality
- The Vietnamese women have a tradition of standing side by side with men in the struggle for national defensein the past and in national construction and development at present. They have become more conscious about gender equality, their role, their status in society; more self-confident; more active and strive hard in their studies and jobs.
2. Challenges
- The main reason is influences of Confucian ideology and age-old feudal norms and practices, which contain much gender bias.
- Laws, policies, machinery… to implement gender equality have been promulgated, yet their enforcement degree is still not high. There has been a lack of guidance and monitoring from leaders of different levels.
- In addition to their jobs, at home women have to take care of their family and do house work. In the present difficult economic situation, this is a heavy burden for them, preventing them from opportunities to upgrade their studies and professions.
IV. Continued implementation of gender equality goals and measures
1. To promote dissemination, communication and education so as to improve the awareness of leaders at all levels and the people on the Law on Gender Equality, the Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence, as well as other laws and policies which aim at implementing gender equality and empowerment of women.
2. To enhance the enforcement of the Law on Gender Equality and the Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence.
3. The Government should specify targets for women to participate in leadership positions in the legislative and executive branches… with a view to guaranteeing women’s voice in the law- and policy-making processes.
4. To improve social policies to the benefit of women and children. To develop public facilities and services to help women reduce their house work and enable them to have more access to higher education./.






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