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Cross-cutting Themes: Gender

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mekongdelta 2008Gender in Viet Nam
Viet Nam has a strong track record of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Viet Nam’s efforts are reflected in its legislative framework, which was strengthened with the passage of two laws, the 2006 Law on Gender Equality and the 2007 Law on thePrevention and Control of Domestic Violence.

However, implementation of legislation and policy remains a challenge.  At the national level, institutions face challenges in public education and awareness raising, reporting, gender analysis, collection of sex-disaggregated data and monitoring.

Vietnamese women continue to face serious obstacles in their daily lives, including poverty, limited access to higher education and employment opportunities, as well as persistent discriminatory attitudes and behaviours. Women continue to be under-represented in politics and despite having one of the highest labor force participation rate of female over 15 (72.6% in 2011) [1], women continue to earn less than men across economic sectors with a differential wage gap of around 80% to 87% of men, especially for foreign investment sector of 70% [2]. In informal sector, women also over-represented, especially in Ho Chi Minh city where women represent 56% of employment compared with only 42% in the formal sector. The gender income gap is also worth noting. Men earn nearly 50% more than women in the informal sector despite no significant differences in working hours, education level and seniority. Additionally, female jobs are also more insecure than those held by men, and women less frequently have professional premises for their activity, a much higher proportion working outdoors [3]. Migration, including internal, cross-border and overseas labour migration, is continuing to increase, making women vulnerable to labour exploitation, abuse and trafficking.

Viet Nam has one of the highest rates of abortion. According to Population Change and Family Planning Survey of GSO 2010, the rate of abortion was 0.8% in 2010. Northern Midlands and Mountainous was the region having highest rate (1.2%), followed by Red River Delta (1.1%). And it appears that sex-selective abortions are on the increase with the sex ratio at birth becoming skewed towards males with 110.6 male babies being born to every 100 female babies nationally in 2009 according to the 2009 Vietnam Population and Housing Census, especially geographically high in the Red River Delta with the ratio of 115/100 and in Hung Yen province with the ratio of 130.7/100 [4]. Viet Nam has experienced an unusually rapid rise in the sex ratio at birth and varies more substantially by region. This imbalance is primarily due to son preference in society placing a lower value on girls. This affects Viet Nam’s population structure in which occur the excess males. This could further increase the pressure on women to marry at a younger age, trafficking and gender-based violence, higher rate of marriage migration, or greater demand for sex work.

Women’s rights are human rights. Working towards gender equality and women’s empowerment protects the rights and improves the lives of women and girls, and also has important socio-economic ramifications.
Investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment is the efficient thing to do, in order to ensure that the skills, talents and capacities of the entire population are fully utilised to achieve Vietnam’s development goals.

Although Viet Nam has taken significant steps to address and reduce gender-based violence, for example, through ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1981 and the 2007 Law on the Prevention and Control if Domestic Violence, violence against women remains a concern.  The result of the national study on VAW, conducted by GSO in 2010 showed that more than half of women in Viet Nam are potentially at risk of abuse at some point in their lives; 34% of ever-married women reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. The prevalence of emotional violence is high, with 54 percent of women reporting lifetime emotional abuse. Combining all three kinds of abuse, 58% of women report ever experiencing physical, sexual or emotional abuse. About 5% of women who had been pregnant reported being beaten during pregnancy, mostly by the father of the unborn child. The study above confirmed that domestic violence against women in Viet Nam is a serious problem [5]. The UN study “Estimating the cost of domestic violence against women in Viet Nam” concludes that both out-of-pocket expenditures and lost earnings represented nearly 1.41% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Viet Nam in 2010. Moreover, it estimates that women experiencing violence earn 35% less than those not abused, representing another significant drain on the national economy. As a result, an estimate of overall lost productivity comes to 1.78 % of GDP [6].


UN Mandate
A commitment to gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment is embedded in the UN approach to development, including the General Assembly Resolution 62/208 triennial comprehensive policy review; successive ECOSOC statements and the 2006 Chief Executives Board system-wide policy.

UN mandates for gender mainstreaming are established in:

“Gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to the global mission of the United Nations to achieve equal rights and dignity for all.”    - Ban Ki- moon

Gender Mainstreaming is “the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels.  It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated.  The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality”.  UN Economic and Social Council 1997

All UN agencies are to “actively promote the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and social spheres and to further undertake to strengthen the capabilities of the UN system in the area of gender”. ECOSOC July 2008

The gender mainstreaming approach aims to challenge people and organizations at all levels to carefully consider the complexities and differences in women’s and men’s lives and their needs and priorities during all stages of policy and programme development and implementation.  

Only when policies and programmes incorporate and address each and every person’s needs and priorities, will all people - men, women, girls and boys - have a chance to participate in and benefit equally from the development process.
UN in Viet Nam Activities
domestic violence 3Scene from the UNODC-supported TV series "Breaking the Silence" on domestic violenceFrom 2009-2011, a Joint Program on Gender Equality between UN and Vietnamese Government was implemented with the grant of $4.5 million from Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund. This program contributed to the implementation of Viet Nam’s Law on Gender Equality and Law on Domestic Violence Prevention and Control by building the capacity of duty bearers to implement and monitor the two laws, enhancing partnerships and coordination around gender equality within and outside of the government, and strengthening data collection for monitoring progress on gender equality.  

As part of the One UN Initiative, the UN in Viet Nam is strongly committed to delivering as one on gender.  This increases the effectiveness and impact of the UN’s support for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The United Nations Country Team (UNCT) is strongly committed to supporting the Government in achieving development goals and targets for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Continuing to invest in these goals is the right thing to do in order to ensure that men and women, boys and girls, are able to participate in and benefit from economic progress.  It is also the efficient thing to do in order to ensure that the skills, talents and capacities of the entire population are fully utilised to achieve Viet Nam’s development goals. The UNCT works actively to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through the process of gender mainstreaming within the One Plan 2012- 2016.  The gender mainstreaming strategy for 2012-2016 has been designed to enhance its capacity to respond to national priorities for gender equality and women’s empowerment and to support gender mainstreaming in development in Viet Nam.

The UN Gender Joint Programming Group (JPG) is the main mechanism for coordination of UN agencies working on promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Joint annual reviews and planning meetings are held with implementing partners to monitor progress.

In working toward the One UN initiative in Vietnam, the Gender Action Partnership (GAP) has been identified as a thematic partnership group in the “One Plan”. The GAP is responsible for promoting gender equality in Vietnam and providing strategic support for the continued discussion and legislation of gender issues.  Recognizing that cooperative efforts are necessary to address gender issues, GAP works to promote partnerships between the international organizations, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies and the government, as well as intra-governmental partnerships among ministries/agencies in Vietnam.

The Informal Ambassadors and Heads of Agencies Coordination Group on Gender has been established in 2012 to enable a high level policy discussion between senior representatives from international community and the government in response to gender equality in Viet Nam.  The Informal Gender Coordination Group is open for Ambassadors, heads of bilateral and multilateral donor agencies and representatives of United Nations agencies. This group meets four times a year to discuss and promote coordination on policy issues related to the national response. The Swedish Ambassador, H.E. Camilla Mellander and UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Pratibha Mehta are co-chairs. The group will have close ties with the Gender Equality Department of MOLISA, NCFAW, Ministry of Health and the Viet Nam Women’s Union as relevant ministries dealing with gender issues.
[1] General Statistics Officer (2012), Report on the 2011 Viet Nam Labour Force Survey, Ha Noi, page 6.
[2] ibid
[3] Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and International Labor Organization (2011), The informal economic in Viet Nam, Ha Noi, International Labor Organization.
[4] General Office For Population and Family Planning, Ministry of Health (2011), Sex ratio at birth in Viet Nam presented at UNFPA’s workshop on Report of the International Workshop on Skewed Sex Ratios at Birth: Addressing the Issue and the Way Forward, Ha Noi 5-6 Octobr 2011, United Nations Population Fund.
[5] General Statistics Officer, Ministry of Planning and Investment, United Nations in Viet Nam and World Health Organization (2010), ‘Keeping silent is dying’: Results from the National Study on Domestic Violence against Women in Viet Nam, Ha Noi.
[6] One UN (2012), Estimating the Cost of Domestic Violence Against Women in Viet Nam.