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UNV Publications

Why I work on Gender?
27 May 2009
by Khamsavath Chanthavysouk

Khamsavath Chanthavysouk
Since starting my assignment as an international UNV volunteer – Gender Specialist in Viet Nam, I have been frequently asked why I, as a man, chose to work in the gender field – a female-dominated field. I of course asked myself the same question many times. When asked, I simply answer that I hold a strong belief in gender equality and in social justice. Some are impressed by my answer, some are surprised, and some are cynical. From my humble experiences, I have discovered that this answer can sometimes be quite unconvincing or insufficient. Alas, most of the time, I do not get a chance to elaborate my answer.

Why does my answer need to be convincing or elaborated? It is because I have to be convincing in order to advocate for my work, for gender equality and women’s empowerment. I am not in this field because I can have “dual positions? in gender issues, i.e. holding men’s perspectives on gender as well as having practical and theoretical knowledge on and sympathy to the course of gender equality. This is because men’s perspectives can be learned via debates, dialogues, observations, studies, and researches. I am not in this field because apparently it is “fashionable? which perhaps leads to a lucrative career path. There are many “trendy? fields in the development industry in which I am interested in and could choose from. And I am not in this field because of my soft or “less-masculine? (as perceived by some people) personality.

The aforementioned reasons to some extent influence my career and personal development path. But the key reason why I chose to work on gender issues is that I see and know gender inequality and gender discrimination in all aspects of my daily life, and that I personally see my grandmother’s and mother’s agonies being a woman. I would have been inhumane if I ignored these facts, knowledge and experiences. Therefore I’m working with a hope to see positive changes, women’s advancement, gender equality and equity, and human development.

Taking this UNV assignment in Viet Nam for almost a year, I am fortunate to have opportunities to work with and learn from many inspiring national and international gender specialists and gendered persons. Through fieldtrips and social forums, I have met numerous strong and inspiring Vietnamese women who are change-agents and who stand up to social injustice, gender discrimination, and power imbalance.. I have met many Vietnamese men who work hard to make a difference in gender. Living in Viet Nam, I can see how hard-working and caring Vietnamese women are. Many deserve a much better and equal life. And this inspires me to work harder and to stay in this field. My work is not only my belief, but also my passion.
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