Winners of United Nations Gender Equality Competition Announced for International Women's Day

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The UN Country Team Awards Vietnamese Initiatives for Best Practices in Promoting Gender Equality

Ha Noi, March 7, 2003: To mark International Women's Day, the UN Country Team in Viet Nam today presented awards to the three winners of the UN's competition on best practices in promoting equality between women and men. At the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, gender equality was clearly identified by the world leaders as one of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and an essential part of every country's development. The competition, launched in October 2002, sought to find innovative local gender-related practices in communities throughout the country, and in doing so, aims to support Viet Nam's commitment to reach the MDG on gender equality.

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The Ethnic Minority Savings and Credit Health Volunteer Groups Project took first prize for its support to Savings-Credit-Health groups for E De ethnic minority women in Buon Ma Thuot City, Dak Lak Province. The project, which is currently self-sustaining, has reached 343 women – 70 percent of the poorest women in the village – and has integrated health and education components into its regular credit and savings schemes. The second prize was presented to the Gender Education of Project Phan Dinh Phung High School in Song Cau, Phu Yen Province. The school piloted an innovative approach to raising awareness of 11th grade students, aged 16, on gender equality by giving lessons on gender issues in the family and community context, getting students to collect information on gender discrimination, and assigning equal responsibilities and opportunities to male and female students in school activities, ranging from cleaning the classroom to taking on leadership roles within the school. The Legal Education and Support for Disadvantaged Women Project in Ha Noi was awarded third prize for its work in providing free legal advice to poor women, including defense counsel at court, and improving women's legal awareness to comply with the law and to protect themselves when their rights are violated. The office responds to serious problems that women face in many countries – domestic violence, illegal trafficking and other abuses that require legal redress.

In awarding these initiatives, the UN in Viet Nam underscores some key challenges and possible solutions to gender inequality and discrimination in Viet Nam today. This includes the barriers that women face in accessing the formal credit system and the need to empower poor women – especially ethnic minority women – with such resources, skills and knowledge to engage in the mainstream economy. A challenge addressed by the second prize winner is the need to change more traditional beliefs and attitudes about women and men that reinforce gender-based discrimination. These socially-learned gender roles and behaviours start from birth. All members of society have a role in changing these stereotypes since they originate from the attitudes that we project in everyday life. The third prize winner highlights the need for legal aid to women as they face a number of problems which affect them disproportionately – gender-based violence, human trafficking and other forms of abuse.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Jordan Ryan commented, “Viet Nam has a strong history of supporting gender equality, particularly in terms of life expectancy and literacy for women, and educational enrolment for girls. However, we much more can be done – especially to address root causes of gender inequality. To do this, we need to promote positive social changes in attitudes and behaviour, men need to engage themselves more in sharing the work load at home and at the fields, women need to be empowered with economic resources, skills, and knowledge, and we should increase women's participation in mainstream political and economic activities.gengrp