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Speech by Ms. Astrid Bant, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam at the Photo-voice Exhibition on Internal Migration in Viet Nam

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Date: Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Event: Photo-voice Exhibition on Internal Migration in Viet Nam
Venue: Exhibition House, 45 Trang Tien street, Ha Noi

Mr. Nguyen Bich Lam, General Director of General Statistics Office;
Photographer Nguyen Minh Duc;
Representatives from Embassies, CSOs, International and local NGOs,
UN colleagues and media;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning to you all,

On behalf of UNFPA in Viet Nam, I am delighted to be here at this special Photo Voice Exhibition on Internal Migration titled "Where Can I Call Home". Let's me first thank the General Statistics Office (GSO) for co-organizing this exciting event.

We would also like to thank Photographer Nguyen Minh Duc for the beautiful pictures and wonderful stories he collected from 9 cities and provinces in Viet Nam. We would also like to express our sincere appreciation to the migrants and their families, who participated in this photo voice project and shared their inspiring stories that really touch our hearts.

For example, a female migrant who is the mother of three children said: "I missed my children so much at first, especially my youngest daughter. Every time I left for Ha Noi Capital, she cried and begged me to stay. I fought my tears and told her that I would be away only for a little while and back really soon".

Yet, the stories show that behind the statistics lie millions of personal stories of courage, drive and sacrifice in the hope of a better future.

"Our biggest wish is to stay healthy and have stable incomes, so that we can give our children better opportunities to study than we had, and that they would not have to endure such hard lives as ours are now" - shared a couples who are migrant workers in Hai Duong industrial zone.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Migration is an important factor  in development and a high-priority issue for both developing and developed countries.

Viet Nam has experienced significant internal migration during different historical periods, including in recent decades. Over the past five years, about 12.4 million of the country's 91 million people, about fourteen per cent of the population, are internal migrants.

It is clear that the primary driver of this recent wave of migration has been the rapid economic development of the country over the past 20 years. People have moved in search for a better life, and are drawn to jobs offered in Viet Nam’s growing cities and industrial zones.

And this brings me to the main two messages I would like to share today:
First, migrants are a key driving force behind Viet Nam’s socio-economic development and  their contributions need to be  fully recognized.  

We also know that as a result of economic development over the past decades, Viet Nam has experienced a substantial reduction in poverty. Migration is clearly one of the cornerstones of Viet Nam’s success in poverty reduction, which has been occurring since the early 1990s. Migrants are helping to fuel Viet Nam's rapid economic growth of nearly seven per cent per year.  
The benefits of migration are multiple: the work of migrants contributes to national and local socio-economic development, which is felt at the individual level by the migrants themselves and their families.

Second, many migrants are vulnerable and facing many challenges and difficulties in their lives. Almost half of all migrants are women, and most are of reproductive age. They have specific needs and human rights concerns.

The families left behind also have to cope with the absence of one or more family members. With a new family structure, parents or family heads experience challenges to meet the economic, reproductive, emotional and educational needs of each family member. When one of the family members migrates, the roles, responsibilities and internal decision-making within the family also change, and are often put under stress.

For example, when the husband migrates, the work at home that he had been doing tends to be taken on by the wife who is left behind. However, when the wife migrates, the tasks she had been responsible for (traditionally associated with women) tend to be taken on by older children or grandparents. And critically, children suffer when one or both of their parents migrate, as they are emotionally and socially more vulnerable due to reduction in the level of care and support.
I would like to quote a story of an old couples in our photo voice project: "We take care of five of our grandchildren. Two more children will be here soon and we are going to form a mini football team! Our grandchildren have lived with us since they were small, and the youngest was just six months old". One of their grandchildren is a six years old boy. He had never seen his father, who is working in Ho Chi Minh City, until the photographer gave him a photo of his father.

Distinguished guests,
Let me share my hope that this photo voice exhibition will enhance our understanding of this issue, and make a real contribution to improving the lives of migrants in Viet Nam. I suppose that virtually every day we interact with, and benefit from the works of migrants here in Ha Noi, whether we know it or not.  They may have assembled our motorbikes or cars, built our offices, and designed new software programmes. The vendors may even sell flowers and food to us on the streets. They deserve our recognition and support.

In closing, I would like to inform you that GSO and UNFPA will organise a national workshop to disseminate the key findings of the 2015 Internal Migration Survey on Friday, 16 December. I anticipate that this workshop will provide the evidence to help us better understand many of the positive  impacts and challenges of internal migration in Viet Nam, and that it will identify the key changes needed in policies and practices to increase options for migrants, especially the poor and vulnerable, so that they, and society as a whole, can benefit from voluntary economic migration.

May I wish you a fruitful and enjoyable event.