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Speech of United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Pratibha Mehta at the Gender Policy Dialogue

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Date: Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 8.00 am
Event: Gender Policy Dialogue
Venue: Melia Hotel, Hanoi


  • Madame Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister for Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs;
  • Nguyen Thi Thanh Hoa, Chairwoman, Viet Nam Women’s Union;
  • Excellencies, Ambassadors;
  • Distinguished participants from the Government, research institutes and civil society; and international community
  • Colleagues from the UN;
  • Ladies and gentlemen;


I am honored to welcome you on behalf of the United Nations to today’s event. It is a pleasure to be here with you at this policy dialogue.

As you know, tomorrow, the 8th of March, will mark International Women's Day. In addition to celebrations in Viet Nam, hundreds of events will take place around the world over the month of March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

The global theme for this year’s 56th UN Commission on the Status of Women is empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication. Rural women and girls constitute one-fourth of the world’s population. They account for a significant proportion of the agricultural labour force, produce the majority of food grown, especially in subsistence farming, and perform most unpaid care work. Their contributions are vital to the well-being of families and communities, local and national economies, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

In Viet Nam, as you know, the majority of the population resides in rural areas and agriculture remains the main source of income for most Vietnamese people. Women dominate in the agricultural workforce, with half of working women employed in the agricultural sector.

Yet rural women’s contributions and priorities have not been duly recognized. In Viet Nam, as elsewhere, rural women have been hard hit by the global economic crisis, volatile food prices and export-driven agriculture and have lost paid jobs as a result of the crisis. The 2009 Labour Force Survey shows that the proportion of women in unpaid family labour increased by 8.2 percent between 2007 and 2009, most notably in agriculture.

The upward swing in rural to urban migration in Viet Nam is largely because of stagnation in villages. A recent study by IOM and GSO found that 63 percent of women migrant workers are in low-paid, vulnerable occupations and while they work longer hours than men, they are paid less. In addition, rural women are particularly vulnerable in households which depend on small scale-farming, livestock and fisheries, and which are vulnerable to economic shocks as well as to natural disasters and climate change.

International experience suggests that if rural women had equal access to productive resources, including land tenure, agricultural yields would rise and there would be 100 million to 150 million fewer hungry people. It is critical that their contributions are recognized, that they are empowered with resources and to participate in decision-making.

Indeed, women in Viet Nam do have greater voice and representation now than in the past, especially at the provincial and commune level, thanks in large part to the strong network and commitment of organizations such as the Viet Nam Women’s Union. But women continue to be under-represented in senior leadership roles in People’s Committees and Councils.

In addition, recent research supported by the UN, which will be discussed this morning, highlights the central role women play in disaster risk reduction and shows an urgent need to raise awareness and build capacity for a gender sensitive approach in disaster risk reduction measures.  Further, research on masculinities and gender based violence shows that dominant male attitudes and behaviors continue to underpin and reinforce gender inequality, and more needs to be done to engage men and boys in preventing violence and promoting a gender equitable society.  

Ladies and gentlemen,
For the UN gender equality is a key priority. Our new One Plan for 2012-2016 recognizes this and our support will focus on effectively combating gender-based violence; addressing the rapidly rising imbalanced sex-ratio at birth resulting from son preference; empowering Vietnamese women leaders; and creating decent and secure employment opportunities for women. With continuing global economic turbulence and the threat of climate change, it is also important to better understand and prepare for impacts on women of shocks such as high inflation and natural disasters.  

Our efforts to improve rural women’s lives include working with the Viet Nam Women’s Union to empower women to cope with natural disasters and increase the role of women in disaster risk reduction and management. We support community based initiatives to assist rural women engaged in household agriculture and production to generate income through fish cage culture, so that they don’t have to send their children to work in urban areas.   The UN will also shortly launch a multi-sectoral Joint Programme to support the Government’s National Target Programme on New Rural Development.

In total, over the next five years, the UN will invest around 40 million USD in gender equality and women’s empowerment, double what we spent from 2006 to 2011.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Viet Nam already has in place an impressive policy and legal framework to promote gender equality and women's empowerment. It is now time for action and enforcement of these policies, laws and strategies, particularly at the sub-national level.  For this to happen, partnerships among sectors and key stakeholders are critical.  

In this regard, I would like to congratulate the Government of Viet Nam on the new National Strategy and Target Programme for Gender Equality, with associated commitments of $46 million USD, the first time that Government funds have been formally committed to a gender programme.  I would also like to acknowledge the strong support and commitment of our women Ambassadors, and other donors, to gender equality in Viet Nam.

Indeed as I look around the audience, it is encouraging to see so many men and women representing Government, civil society and the international community. This really illustrates the broad partnership for gender equality that exists in Viet Nam.

I am very pleased to welcome back the Vietnamese delegation that recently returned from the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York and I look forward to hearing from MOLISA on its priorities for the empowerment of rural women. We will also hear from the Viet Nam Women´s Union on their catalytic work to promote rights and benefits for rural women and from the Vietnamese Institute of Social Studies, Economics and Environment on gender equity and ethnic minority groups in Viet Nam.

We have a busy morning ahead of us, so let me close by thanking you for your interest and attendance. I look forward to hearing from you how we can best work together to bring real changes to the lives of women and girls in Viet Nam. And I wish all women everywhere a very happy International Women’s Day.

Xin cam on.