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Speech by Ms. Shoko Ishikawa, UN Women Country Representative in Viet Nam at Training workshop “Making budget accountable for women”

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Date: Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Event: Training workshop "Making budget accountable for women"

Venue: Lakeside, 23 Ngọc Khánh, Giảng Võ, Ba Đình, Hà Nội.

Ms Reachbha FitzGerald, Deputy Head of Development, the Embassy of Ireland.



Distinguished guests and friends of UN Women from CSO

Good morning to everyone and thank you for joining this workshop on Making budget accountable for women.

Over the past twenty years, Viet Nam has made significant strides towards gender equality. GEL and National Strategy on Gender Equality + gender sensitive provisions in various other laws such as the Labour Code

However, implementation has not been optimal and significant gaps remain.

Take for example your labour and employment policies. Despite global integration of the Vietnamese economy leading to growth in job opportunities for women, decent work is not yet a reality for most. Wage employment accounts for less than 1/3 of total female labour, in comparison with 40% of men. And, direct discrimination against women such as the different retirement age between women and men or discriminatory practices by employers based on maternity and pregnancy remain unresolved. The Global Gender Gap Index Report suggests that the wage gap between women and men has been increasing, contrary to the global trend.

If we look at violence against women, as many as 3 out of 5 women in Viet Nam experience at least one form of violence by their partners at some point in their lives. Although you have a law against DV that stipulates that adequate protection and support services and channels to seek justice should be available to women, only 1 in 10 has sought help from the authorities. This may be because there are hardly any shelters services available for women, or adequate investment has not been made to train law enforcement of social workers to handle DV cases with sensitivity and respect for the rights of the victims. This lack of investment has an economic cost. In a study that UN Women conducted with Institute of Family and Gender Studies, we found that the direct cost and the lost opportunity cost due to DV combined amounted to 3% of the GDP. This is not an insignificant amount.

And we all know that the situation is further exacerbated if you are an ethnic minority women or girl. There are very few job training opportunities available to ethnic minority women or social services are further removed from you because of your ethnicity, your gender, your remoteness, language, etc. etc.

Governments reflect their priorities in how they spend their money. If a policy commitment is not supported by a specific budget allocation, by implication the government is announcing a low priority on the achievement of that policy. Where does gender equality and women's empowerment in ethnic minority areas stand in this context? Is there a policy commitment? And are adequate budgets allocated?

One of the effective ways to overcoming challenges to promote gender equality is gender responsive budgeting (GRB), which refers to a variety of processes and tools aimed at facilitating an assessment of the gendered impacts of government budgets.

To date, UN Women has supported more than 90 countries with various GRB initiatives, including Viet Nam. In the context of Viet Nam, with the 2015 State Budget Law that added gender equality principle for state budget expenditure and planning, we have an entry point to demand better attention to gender equality impact when government is making investment and budget allocation decisions.

Key to realizing this commitment is that the policy process is participatory and that the analysis moves beyond budget allocations, to review implementation of the budget at the ground level. Globally CSOs play a critical role in this process and social accountability tools have been developed and used to monitor various stages of public expenditure for gender responsive budgeting work. In India, Malaysia and Philippines, gender responsive budgeting has been used effectively by CSO to strengthen state accountability towards gender equality and the empowerment of women. In India, for example, CSO groups have for year now been analyzing budgets for specific groups of women such as those in the Dalit and Adivasi communities, also known as the untouchable caste and tribal groups. It is shocking to calculate that the total allocation for Dalit-Adivasi women forms a meagre 0.99% of the total Gender Budget Statement.

Some of these tools will be shared and discussed with you in the next two days, such as social audit, citizen report card (CRCs), community score card, engendering Budget Call Circular and Budget Statement, Participatory Budgeting.

In the past few years, UN Women's advocacy and capacity on gender responsive budgeting has been focusing on the government and this is the first time that we have organized a workshop with CSO partners on this particular subject. I see that many of you are positioning yourselves as a trusted advisor and an essential partner of the government that brings the voice from the ground into policy making, and I hope that the workshop will trigger some new ideas for your important work.

In closing, I want to thank the Government of Ireland for its support which has enabled us to be here today, CEPEW and iSee for working with us to prepare this workshop, and the resource persons that are taking their time to be with us over the next two days.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you all happiness and good health.