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Speech by Katherine Muller-Marin, UNESCO Representative in Viet Nam, on the occasion of the Interactive Session “Window of Love offline: Stand Up to Gender Stereotypes Around us in Everyday Life!”

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Date:       Sunday, May 9th 2014
Event:     Youth Dialogue “Stand Up to Gender Stereotypes Around us in Everyday Life!”
Venue:    Museum of Ethnology, Ha Noi

Dear distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,
Young people of Viet Nam,  

Today, I am very glad to see the eagerness and youth energy towards change on the beautiful faces of young people attending this event. I feel very happy to hear many brave questions, comments, and opinions from all the corners of this room on our interesting dialogue about breaking gender stereotypes in our daily lives.
Yesterday we celebrated International Women’s Day 2014. Today’s session has contributed to the celebration of women by having this interactive dialogue and learning how breaking stereotypes can help us build societies with more gender equality.  
 
Throughout history, Viet Nam has seen many women that have challenged gender stereotypes: Trung Trac and Trung Nhi   were two noble women, who rallied the troops of 80,000 people and won the fight to gain independence for Viet Nam for the first time, from the Chinese. Although that liberation lasted only for two years, the Trung sisters remained a source of inspiration to fight for freedom. They are a vivid example of breaking the stereotype of only men doing well in the battlefield and being leaders.

Another real life example is Ho Xuan Huong , the queen of Nom poetry from the 18th century, who constantly challenged the views about women’s role and expectations under Confucius’ ideology and studies. She succeeded to be one of greatest writer of all times, showing the richness and depth of Vietnamese language.  
 
I was also amazed to learn that she was one of those brave women who dared to speak out about sexuality in an open and beautiful manner as early as the 18th century. Through her poems, she brought to life human weakness and desire, and the battle of the sexes and the power of the female body vis–à–vis male authority. She boldly discussed various aspects of religious life, social justice, and equality including sexual freedom, and other issues and experiences potentially detrimental to the status and aspirations of women.

As we remember these women, I would like you to feel proud of the history and culture of Vietnam, which has been built by such special characters. But also, we should remember we still have to continue with our actions to break gender stereotypes.
Because in our daily life, we see gender stereotypes continue to exist and affect many: I just learnt from the news  on Thursday there are still a lot of young teenage mothers between the ages of 13 and 17 in Dien Bien. At their young age, they have to take care of everything: children, housework and work to earn the living for the family! The husbands will do nothing because following their local practices and perception, the women need to fulfill their gender expectations.

Of course, not every one of us will become a hero or heroine, or a famous writer, but we can start by changing our attitude. If each and every one of us, the young men and women, boys and girls, change our views on gender stereotypes after this discussion, we can spread the message and encourage others to do the same. I am delighted to see more such changes are happening in the Vietnamese society today: there are male kindergarten teachers, female pilots, male ballet dancers, female taxi drivers.

Breaking gender stereotypes is not only a woman’s job. It needs the involvement of all men, women, boys and girls, old and young. We need more songs, poems, books, films, paintings, articles and simply, more voices and daily actions that respect and strive for gender equality across the gender spectrum.
I feel privileged to be here today together with my UN colleagues, the media and all of you. Listening to your voices and looking into your eyes, I believe that each of you can find a creative way to make it happen.
Thank you.