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NEWS
Alternative Report
Posted: Mar 31,2005

by Some Vietnamese NGOs on Ten Years of ImplementingThe Beijing Platform of Action in Vietnam

Acknowledgements

 

Ten years have passed since the Fourth World Conference on Women. The Beijing Platform of Action for Equality, Development, and Peace has been taken as an international commitment and internalized into Vietnam's national strategies and national plans of action for the advancement of women by not only governmental organizations but also by many Vietnamese NGOs. To review the implementation of the global plan of action for women (The Beijing Platform of Action) in Vietnam, some Vietnamese NGOs joined hands to prepare the Alternative Report of Beijing Plus 10.

 

The Vietnam Women’s Union and other Vietnamese NGOs would like to take this opportunities to express our sincere thanks to Dr. Shanthi Dainiam, Executive Director of IWRAW Asia Pacific (International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific) for her technical support and ActionAid Vietnam for its financial support. We are also grateful to Swedish SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) for funding the printing of this report.

 

We hope this report will help to push further the implementation of The Beijing Platform of Action for Equality, Development and Peace in Vietnam and the rest in the world.

 

Part I: General Situation of Vietnam since 1995

 

I. General situation of Vietnam

 

Vietnam has been experiencing changes from the central economy into a market economy. The Renovation of Vietnam (Doi Moi), which started in late 1986, has achieved many successes and continues to progress. The fast and stable economic growth has brought in an average annual growth in GDP at 6.12% during 1990 – 2003. The people’s living standard has improved with an increase in income and available commodities and services. Annual GDP per head increased from US$ 200 in 1990 to US$ 485 in 2003.[1][1]

 

Vietnam ranks first among developing countries in poverty alleviation. The poverty rate has dropped from 58% in 1993 (by international standard) to 29% in 2002. In terms of social factors, according to UNDP statistics, Vietnam's human development index (HDI) increased from 0.649 in 1995 to 0.688 in 2003,[2][2] thus raising the rank of Vietnam from 112th among 174 countries in 1995 to 87th among 177 countries in 2004. Vietnam's Gender Development Index in 2004 ranked Vietnam as 87th among 144 countries.[3][3] Vietnam belongs to the group of South East Asian countries with the highest achievement. Besides, Vietnam has also achieved encouraging results in job creation, education and training, population and family planning, and health care for ordinary people.

 

At present, Vietnam is implementing its National Strategy on Socio-Economic Development for the period 2001 – 2010 with the overall objective “Liberating Vietnam from the least developing country status, improving the material, cultural, and spiritual life of the people, and creating the foundation for Vietnam to be basically a modernized and industrialized country by the year 2020….” To implement this objective and design a mechanism, policies, and measures for the above strategy, the Government developed its Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (CPRGS). This CPRGS recognizes the connection between gender equality and poverty across the whole society and asserts that gender equality is a critical objective to the whole strategy.

 

Beside policies and programs undertaken by the Government and its relevant ministries, Vietnamese NGOs - which were established and developed during the 1990s, a decade of the Economic Renovation - have actively taken part in efforts to ensure equality and advancement for women in all fields. The number of Vietnamese NGOs and Vietnam-based international NGOs (INGOs) has increased considerably over the last decade. It is estimated that, at the moment, there are about 300 Vietnamese NGOs. Many of them have become active partners with INGOs and United Nations organizations, thereby contributing to the success of socio-economic development programs in Vietnam.

 

At present, about 500 INGOs operate in Vietnam. Most are from Western Europe, North America, and Asia – Pacific.[4][4] They support Vietnam's development through programs in health care, education, poverty reduction, income generation, infrastructure construction, water and sanitation, gender equality, community development, environmental protection, etc. During 1999, INGOs in Vietnam implemented 1,458 projects with a monetary value of approximately USD 81 million. Other supporting programs were valued at USD 44 million.[5][5] The funds of International NGOs (INGOs) allocated for research and development projects have tended to increase, and the network has extended.[6][6] INGOs now work in many poor, remote, mountainous areas of the country to provide support not only on economic and technical issues but also on socio-cultural and gender issues.

 

II. INTERNALIZATION OF THE BEIJING PLATFORM FOR ACTION IN VIETNAM

 

1. National Strategies and Action Plans Relating to Gender Equality

 

The Government of Vietnam has formulated its Strategies for the Advancement of Women in Vietnam, the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women by 2000, and the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women by 2010. These strategies have served as a fundamental framework through which the Government can attain gender equality in Vietnam.

 

The National Strategy for the Advancement of Women by 2000 was formulated with these goals:

 

- to create conditions to realize fully the potential of all women;

 

- to improve the role and participation of women in social, economic, and cultural areas;

 

- to implement effectively the targets of the Fourth World Conference on Women, including The Beijing Plan of Action for Equality, Development, and Peace;

- to implement the goals of “a rich people and a strong country with justice, democracy and a civilized society;”

- to improve the quality of life for women.

 

To implement the Strategy, a National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women by the Year 2000 (known as Plan of Action 1 or POA1) was formulated and approved by the Government in October 1997.

 

The National Strategy for the Advancement of Women by 2010 was a continuation of the first strategy in order to enhance women’s advancement in all areas. The overall objective of the Strategy is: “To improve the quality of women's material and spiritual life, as well as to establish the conditions necessary for women to experience their fundamental rights and to participate fully and equally in and benefit from all aspects of political, economic, cultural, and social life. Based on this national strategy, The National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women by the Year 2005 (Plan of Action 2 or POA2) was approved in March 2002 as a guideline for activities to be implemented in the first five years of the Strategy by the year 2010.

 

The above mentioned strategies and plans of action reflect the strong commitment of Vietnam to implement successfully the global plan of action for the advancement of women.

 

2. Promulgation and Amendment of Some Laws and Policies Relating to Women’s Rights

 

On the basis of ensuring equality between women and men as stipulated in the first Constitution of Vietnam in 1946 and in tune with the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995, during the last ten years, many laws and policies have been issued and amended to create a better working mechanism for implementing and ensuing women’s rights to freedom and equality and to solve emerging issues relating to women’s rights and benefits. To name a few such laws and policies:

 

- 1995: Article 110 of the Labor Code notes, “State agencies have the responsibility to diversify convenient forms of training for women laborers so that, beside their current jobs, they can have alternatives jobs in order to maximize the use of female labor considering their physical and psychological differences and taking into account their motherly functions.”

 

- 1996: Chapter 10 of the Ordinance of Labor Protection outlines separate provisions for women. Article 113 bans women from work considered heavy or dangerous, such as working on deep-sea ships and oil rigs and operating cranes.

 

- Sept.1997: The Prime Minister's Directive No 766/TTg assigns responsibility to concerned ministries and agencies for carrying out measures to prevent the illegal transfer of women and children abroad.

 

- 2000: Revision of Marriage and Family Law includes additional provisions regarding ownership and inheritance in the cases of divorce and death. Article 27 is based on the common law, in which everything acquired before marriage is subject to an agreement while everything acquired after marriage is considered a common asset. Land-use rights acquired after marriage, therefore, require both names on all registration certificates.

 

- April 2002: Revision and supplementation of the Labor Code on the provisions relating to policies for female labor, including social insurance, wages, labor protection, and labor discipline.

 

- March 2003: Government Decision No 19/2003/ND-CP replacing the Decision No 163/HDBT, implementing the responsibility of State administrative offices at all levels to facilitate the Vietnam Women’s Union’s participation in State management.

 

- March 2003: The Government Decree on the Prevention of Prostitution strictly forbids prostitution; defines socio - economic measures in the prevention of prostitution; punishes procurers, brokers and organizers of prostitution. Prostitutes are considered victims and targeted for benefits from governmental programs on medical treatment and vocational training and job creation for community reintegration.

 

- November 2003: Revised Law on Land ratified by the National Assembly. The law requires that the Certificate of Land and House be signed by both the wife and the husband.

 

PART II: VIETNAMESE WOMEN AFTER TEN YEARS OF IMPLEMENTING THE BEIJING PLATFORM OF ACTION

 

1. WOMEN AND POVERTY

 

1.1 General Situation

 

During the past ten years, Vietnam has greatly reduced its poverty rate. In 1993, about 58% of the population was poor. By 1998, the rate of poor people had been reduced to 37%, and in 2002 to 29%. (Common Report at the Consultative Meeting of Donors to Vietnam: Report on Development of Vietnam 2004: Poverty. 2003: xi).

 

In Vietnam, there are two ways of measuring poverty. The first way (by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs) is based on monthly average income in paddy (rice) volume of the household. By this standard, any household with an average monthly income equivalent to below thirteen kilograms of rice is classified as hungry poor; households with average monthly income per head below fifteen kilograms of rice in the mountainous areas but twenty kilograms in the lowland rural areas and twenty-five kilograms in the urban area are considered poor. (Nguyen Van Tien, 1997, Nguyen Hai Huu, 1997) The second way of measuring poverty (by the General Statistics Office and Institute of Nutrition) is based on the consumption of calories per head per day. Consumption of below 2.100 calories/head/day is seen as poor. This criteria in 1993 is equivalent to average monthly income of VND 50,000 (or USD 3.17) in the rural and VND 70.000 (or USD 4.43) in the urban areas.

 

According to the calculations of the Ministry of Labor, Invalid and Social Affairs, about 17,18% of the population of Vietnam was poor in 2000; by 2004, this rate had been reduced to 8,80%. Thus, within four years, the poverty rate in Vietnam had been reduced by 8,38% (See Table 1).

 

By now, the way of measuring poverty in Vietnam has changed because the standard of poverty has been modified to fit with the socio-economic development of the country. In the past, poverty was seen from the perspectives of demand for rice and additional foods. At present, poverty is seen in a wider perspective that includes non food factors such as housing, appliances, means of production, health care, education, culture, means of transportation, social relations, opportunity to take part in community development etc.

 

Table 1: Reduction of the Poverty Rate (according to the standard used 2001 – 2005)

 

Region

Year 2000

June 2004 (Households)

June 2004

(%)

Percentage

Reduction

General

17,18

1.540.572

8,80

8,38

1. North East

22,35

202.956

11,61

10,74

2. North West

33,96

87.629

18,55

15,41

3. Red River Delta

9,76

291.811

6,51

3,25

4. North Central

25,64

321.663

14,22

11,42

5. Central Lowland

22,34

162.550

10,36

11,98

6. Central Highland

24,90

118.322

12,99

11,91

7. South East

8,88

73.650

2,95

5,39

8. Mekong Delta

14,18

281.991

7,89

6,29

 

Source: Nguyen Hai Huu. Draft National Targeted Program on Poverty Reduction 2006 –2010 (Hanoi: Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, 2005).

 

According to the new standard, the poor are those who have an average income of VND 250,000/month (USD 15.9) in the urban areas and VND 200,000/ month (USD 12,7) in the rural, with the calculations done by buying power, not by exchange rate. “Poor households are those that spend 60% of their total household expenses on food, while rich households spend only from 15% to 20% of the total household expenses on food. (Nguyen Hai Huu, 2005).

 

Poverty in the urban areas is different from that in the rural areas because of the difference in lifestyles and in sources of income. In accordance with the new standard of poverty in Vietnam as mentioned above, it is estimated that there are over 4.6 million poor households (26.7%), among which there are 519,000 urban households (12.24%), 1,964,000 rural households in the lowlands (23.2%), 2,122.00 households in the highlands (45. 9%), and the rest in other areas.

 

By any standard, the poor households are mainly in the rural areas. In general, poverty is persistently attached to rural people in terms of public infrastructure such as roads, schools, clinics, communication, electricity, water supply, etc. as well as in terms of people’s residences, household appliances, and means of production. By the former standard of poverty, 90% of the poor lived in the rural areas. Most of the ethnic minority people are the poor (Table 2). Among the poor, women are the poorest.

 

Table 2: Proportion of Ethnic Minorities Among the Poor

 

 

1992

1998

2004

Ethnic minority

79%

71%

68%

Kinh

21%

29%

32%

 

Source:Nguyen Hai Huu. Draft National Targeted Program on Poverty Reduction 2006-2010. (Hanoi, Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, 2005).

 

1.2 Government Policies and Programs

 

The renovation (Doi Moi) of economic management has led to the abolishing of subsidies previously given to state enterprises and to the promotion and development of many economic sectors, especially in the private sector. The free development of a multiple-sector economy has created a great number of jobs. These new job opportunities have brought benefits for both men and women, many of whom have escaped from poverty.

 

In the rural areas, land allocation to households on a long-term basis has encouraged job creation in individual households in particular and in the rural areas in general. Many families have developed large farms. Household economy has also developed. These newly developed agriculture services have enabled many individual farmers and their households to generate more income and escape from poverty.

 

The Government of Vietnam has implemented its National Targeted Program on Poverty Reduction by using different stages. The Comprehensive Strategy on Growth and Poverty Reduction is an important part of The National Strategy on Socio-economic Development at each stage. This strategy is also attached to other government policies for the poor in terms of credit provision, health care support, education, housing, infrastructures for poor communes, agricultural extension, forestation and fishing, jobs and production promotion, permanent agriculture, and resettlement in new economic zones.

 

In addition, Vietnam has a National Strategy for the Advancement of Women by the Year 2000, which has an objective regarding job creation and income generation for women as part of the effort to contribute to poverty eradication. Furthermore, the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women by the Year 2010 targets at 80% poor households headed by women can access to loans from the national poverty reduction program and 50% women in the total borrowers.

 

1.3NGO Contributions

 

The Vietnam Women’s Union has organized programs and activities, which reach across the country, to alleviate poverty among women. During the past ten years, the Women's Union has:

 

- Targeted poor women and poor households headed by women;

 

- Actively explored resources from national programs such as the banking system and credit organizations and by encouraging the inner strength of women in order to develop, maintain, and expand credit and savings projects for women;

 

- Promoted the movement, “Mutual Assistance Among Women for Household Economic Development;” the movement, “A Saving Day for Poor Women;” and the movement, “Build Houses for Poor Women;”

 

- Coordinated closely with relevant governmental branches, departments, and organizations (e.g. the Peasants Association and the Gardeners' Association) in the areas of agricultural and fishing-raising extension, plant protection to help women by using different forms of training, seminars, conferences, and field visits to model programs, and then by setting up models for technology transference, credit, job creation, and income generation for poor women.

 

Although other Vietnamese NGOs are newly established, they have implemented a number of poverty alleviation programs for women, conducted training on gender in poverty alleviation, and in agriculture extension and enterprise management. INGOs based in Vietnam have provided support to rural development programs and projects on construction of infrastructure, health care services, clean water supply, training in many sectors, and credit and savings.

 

1.4 Obstacles and Causes

 

1.4.1Obstacles

 

Vietnam is experiencing a widening gap between rich and poor and between rural and urban as well as between different walks of life. The poverty rate in the mountainous and ethnic-minority areas is much higher than that in the urban areas and the deltas. Poverty alleviation results are not sufficiently stable, and the risk of returning to poverty remains high. The poorest are usually women, who are mainly in the rural, mountainous, and ethnic-minority areas.

 

 

1.4.1Causes

 

Women once faced more difficulties than men in their efforts to generate income for the family. For instance, women do most of the agricultural work, which has low economic productivity compared with other kinds of work. Even though women need to apply new techniques in their farming, they have fewer opportunities than men to improve knowledge. Women are also more vulnerable than men in terms of falling into poverty, which will affect their families. Rural women are limited in terms of:

 

- Time: Women have significantly less time for leisure and sleeping than men.

 

- Opportunities: Women have limited opportunities to study,socialize, and to obtain information.

 

- Insurance:Women are not guaranteed access to resources, such as credit and land. They are deeply vulnerable to risks in agricultural production, which is dependent on weather and crops.

 

- Power: Women are not allowed to make big decisions and are not invited to consultative meetings on poverty reduction, cultivation, animal rearing, etc. Women, especially poor women, have no voice in the community in terms of production and community activities.

 

- Capability:Since women are less accessible to education, they tend to seem less capable than men. Rural men can easily migrate to the cities for a job or additional work during down seasons, while women are usually bound to their traditionally stereotyped role in the family.

 

1.5Opportunities and Potentials

 

Causes as mentioned above are causes of poverty in terms of time, opportunity, security, power, and capability. Income of the wife or of the husband (women or men) depends on these five elements. Women have triple roles as the birth giver, manager of family and producer. Women play an important role in earning income for their families in both agricultural and non-agricultural production.

 

Women from poor households will be more capably if they can have access to opportunities to study. This can allow them to take advantage of more opportunities. In addition, women can more easily escape from poverty if have access to loans for production and if they have decision-making power, etc. The growth of every member in the family is very important to the development of the family's economy. Many families depend on the women’s production to escape from poverty and not fall back into a poorer situation.

 

1.6Recommendations

 

- Extend more opportunities for poor women in the fields of education, training, communication, and community activities so that their voices are heard.

 

- Help women have access to financial resources and health care services.

 

- Make sure women can have access to credit, to risk insurance against natural disasters and are knowledgeable about market risks

 

- Monitor women’s legal right to have their names written on Land Certificates.

 

2.Women and Education and Training

 

2.1 General Situation

 

Vietnam had recorded progress in assuring gender equality in universal education by 1995, when the ratio of girls’ enrolment to boys' was 50.70% at the primary level, 43.70% at the junior secondary level and 41.38% at the senior secondary level. However, full equality has not yet been seen in education enjoyment in either the urban or rural areas due to uneven economic development across the country's various regions. Remote and mountainous areas lack teachers. Further, students have few opportunities to enhance their knowledge when the families' material base is low and when there is a shortage of textbooks and teaching aids. [7][7]

 

Vietnam has a relatively complete and uniform national education system. It has been expanded in terms of scope and diversified in terms of modes, methods, and resources, creating a number of opportunities for people Ĝ especially women of all ages Ĝ to participate in learning. The rate of girls and women participating in education in all forms is about 38-40%.[8][8] In Vietnam, there are four types of informal learning for adults:

 

- programs for illiteracy eradication and post-literacy continuing education

 

- programs for learners' responsive education

 

- programs for additional, periodical, and refresher training to update knowledge and improve skills

 

- programs to earn diplomas from the national education system through learning-and-doing, long-distance learning, self-guided self learning.

 

As of April 2003, junior secondary education was universalized in fifteen out of sixty-one provinces-cities in the country. Ninety-four per cent of the population aged fifteen and above were literate, with the average number of years of schoolingat 5.3 for girls (increased 0.4 year compared with 1993) and 6.5 for boys (increased 0.6 year compared with 1993).[9][9] The rate of female students in colleges and universities in scientific and technical fields in the school year 2001-2002 was on the rise, reflecting the positive change in career choices for women in the society.

 

The State assures women’s participation in vocational training. During period, 1997-2000, 45% of the total 1.65 million people trained were women.[10][10] In 2002 exclusively, more than one million people were trained, of whom 160,000 enjoyed long-term training. The quality of vocational training has improved and has also diversified its sectors, many of which are appropriate for women. Localities particularly attach importance to investment in vocational-training centers.

 

The number of female staff is growing in the education and training sector: In 2002, the rate of female teachers was 77.9% (increased 0.49% compared with 1997) at the primary level, 68.9% (increased 0.31%) at junior secondary level, 56% (increased 6% at senior secondary level, and 39.7% (increased 3.7%) at college and university level.[11][11]

 

2.2 Government Policies and Programs

 

Under the principle, “Education and Training is the First Priority of the Country,” the State has defined the goal of education as formulating and fostering the character, qualifications, and capacities of the citizen without discriminating between men and women. Both the first 1946 Constitution of Vietnam and the 1992 Constitution of Vietnam affirm: “Learning is the right and obligation of the citizen” (Article 59). The 1991 Law on Protection and Care of Children and the 1991 Law on Universalization of Primary Education reiterated and refined the above-mentioned policies.

 

The Law on Education approved by the National Assembly in December 1998 and many other documents have created a legal environment for ensuring the right to equality of all citizens in education and training.

 

The Strategy on the Development of Education for 2001-2003 sets up a target of creating a basic change in educational quality, realizing that social equity in education and creating even more improved learning opportunities for people of all walks of life, especially those in difficult areas, is essential.

 

NGO Contributions

 

- Mobilized people and, in particular, women to participate in both formal and informal education and training; mobilized parents to send their children to school; mobilized primary school pupils and girl children in remote, isolated, mountainous, and difficult areas to go to school; organized literacy classes for women and children in special circumstances in high mountainous, remote, and isolated areas.

 

- Organized support activities for poor and outstanding students; established learning-promotion funds and learning-promotion associations to provide support for students, especially the poor.

 

- Collected books, notebooks, and clothes and set up community book cases to help students in remote, isolated, and natural-disaster-prone areas.

 

- Participated in advocacy for and formulation of laws and policies on education and monitored the implementation of the laws and policies relating to education and training for women and girl children.

 

- Developed vocational training and job introduction for women; formed a network of vocational training and job services.

 

- Organized different activities on the occasion of UN launched event, “Illiteracy eradication decade and education week for all;disseminated leaflets “Illiteracy eradication for women and girls;” responded to the global class launched by UNESCO to promote the “Decade for Illiteracy Eradication and Continuing Education for All. ”

 

- Organized training courses on gender awareness for female staff and leaders of local sectors and authorities; disseminated information on the Ten-Year Strategy and the Five-Year Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women in Vietnam.

 

2.4 Obstacles and Causes

 

The following obstacles hinder the strengthening of educational opportunities for women:

 

- Women are more disadvantaged than men in access to education, and there is a disparity between regions and areas.

 

- Although the literacy rate in Vietnam is high, there is a disparity between regions, areas, and age groups. The rate of literate women in urban areas is higher than that in rural areas. Further, the higher the age, the lower the literacy rate.

 

Table: Literacy Rate According to Age Groups and Regions in 1999 (%).[12][12]

 

 

Whole Country

Urban Areas

Rural Areas

Age

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

18-19

93.5

93.9

96.5

98.0

92.5

92.6

20-29

93.8

93.5

96.9

97.3

92.7

92.1

30-39

95.6

93.8

97.9

97.2

94.8

92.5

40-49

96.1

91.4

98.6

96.0

95.2

89.5

50+

89.4

63.8

94.6

75.6

87.8

60.2

 

In terms of literacy, the ratio between women and men is nearly equal to that of men in universal education. Further, the higher the educational level (university and graduate school), the lower the ratio.

 

Table: Ratio of Students at Different Levels by Sex in 2002 (%)[13][13]

 

Educational Level

Female

Male

Primary

47,52

52,48

Junior secondary

47,50

52,50

Senior secondary

46,70

53,30

Others

44, 27

55,73

 

These other qualities should also be noted:

 

- There is a difference in the quality of education among regions and areas. In mountainous and remote areas, most schools lack teachers and basic materials; The education and training materials are inappropriate for the variations between regions and target groups. Further, there are few IEC (Information, Education and Communication) materials for women from the ethnic minorities.

 

- Low socio-economic development with poor infrastructure in rural and mountainous areas is an obstacle for everyone but especially for women in terms of access to education, knowledge, and technology.

 

- Women have less access to vocational training than men; their educational level and professional skills are lower; vocational training for female workers, especially in rural areas, is very limited; programs in alternative jobs training for women face many difficulties. Women account for only 27.3% of those who were trained in the fields of natural sciences, technical sciences, and industry; further, only 6% of the total trained in agriculture, forestry and fishery were women.[14][14]

 

- Despite the growing number of female staff in the education and training sector, the rate of female staff found in higher positions is lower. The proportion of female leaders in the education sector is low. As of 2002, women accounted for 99.6% of the teachers at the pre-school level, 77.9% at the primary level, 68.9% at the junior secondary level, 56% at the senior secondary level, but only 42.5% at the professional secondary level and 39.7% at the college and university level. In the Ministry of Education, there is only one vice-minister, one department director, and six vice-directors, and only eleven directors of provincial/city departments. The rate of female principals is 28.86% at the basic education level and 6.7% at the college and university level. Women professors account for only 3.54%, while associate professors are at 7.24%.[15][15]

 

- Gender bias is still seen in textbooks of primary and secondary schools, with illustrations on traditional roles for women and girls, such as doing housework, farming, and other manual labor. Women and girls are often described as lacking in confidence, dependent, and inferior whereas men and boys are described as scientists, explorers, or technicians who are well trained, healthy, technically skillful, independent, and respected.

- Due to the work burden both at home and in the office or on the farm, women lack both time and materials to enable their participation in training for further knowledge and skills.

 

- Budgets allocated for education and training for women and girls are limited. Some localities have a policy to support female staff in training, but this is unusual and not uniform in quality.

 

2.5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

- Vietnam’s Strategy for the Development of Education During 2001-2010 set up an objective of creating a basic change in educational quality to enhance social equity in education and create better learning opportunities for people from all walks of life, especially those in difficult areas.

 

- The National Plan of Action on Education for All During 2003-2015 defines gender equality as a priority target with specific contents: “Eliminate gender inequality at primary and secondary levels by 2005, achieve gender equality in education by 2015, attach importance to ensuring girl children’s sufficient and equal access to and accomplishment of basic education with good quality.”

 

- The national programs during the period 2001-2015 have already been but will be further strengthened across the entire education-training sector according to the following key orientations: developing and making full use of new text books; enhancing knowledge of and standardizing credentials for teachers; ensuring the sufficiency of teaching facilities; investing in the development of pre-school education; boosting the development of education for people of ethnic minorities.

 

- The percentage of budget for education in the total national budget has increased over the past years. In addition, the Government allows sectors and authorities and mass organizations at all levels to set up a Supporting Fund for Female Talents to provide special financial support for women in their training.

 

- Teaching techniques and materials in schools have been considerably upgraded. The network of primary schools has expanded to the village/hamlet level, while the network of junior secondary schools reaches the commune or inter-commune level and senior secondary school have reached the district/precinct and commune/ward levels, creating favorable conditions for women and girls to go to school.

 

- Educational and training modes have diversified, with a range of new educational and training channels and forms being developed, including: private schools, semi-State schools, and long-distance education and training through radio-television. These kinds of schools are not just found in the universal educational system. In addition, there are tens of private and semi-State colleges and universities in large cities. Individuals may study abroad if their finance status is assured.

 

- The State is in the process of considering a policy to support training for female staff. This will provide an opportunity for female staff to have better access to further training and study.

 

2.6 Recommendations

 

- The Ministry of Education and Training should continue its collaboration with mass organizations and domestic and international NGOs to strengthen illiteracy eradication and post-illiteracy eradication for women and girls, especially those in remote and ethnic-minority areas.

 

- The Government and the Ministry of Education and Training should develop policies to support women and girls to participate in different training modes for further training and improved skills, such as policies on granting scholarships, providing financial support for training, developing short-term training programs, organizing mobile training courses in communities, and other programs that are appropriate for women in remote and ethnic-minority areas.

 

- The Ministry of Education and Training should strengthen its efforts to eradicate the gender bias that now exists in textbooks.

 

- The Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs should collaborate with mass organizations such as the Vietnam Farmers’ Association, the Vietnam Women’s Union, and the Youth Union to eradicate gender prejudice in vocational training and job orientation activities. They should strengthen vocational training for women, especially those in rural areas, in order to meet the requirements of industrialization and modernization necessary to create structural change in production, contributing to in-place employment creation and the recovery of traditional handcraft villages.

 

- The National Committee for the Advancement of Women in Vietnam should promote gender awareness-raising activities for policy planners and leaders of ministries, sectors, agencies, and establishments in order to provide more opportunities for women to participate in training for further professional knowledge and skills.

 

- Government organizations and NGOs should collaborate more closer in communication and awareness-raising activities for communities with the aim of eradicating all forms of discrimination against women and girls in education and training.

 

- NGOs should continue supporting activities for women in education and training in order to intensify training courses that provide further knowledge for women, especially those in remote and ethnic-minority areas and those with special difficulties.

 

- Training establishments and media agencies should incorporate gender issues into their training and communication content.

 

3.Health care for women

 

3.1 General Situation

 

In recent years, Vietnam has recorded remarkable achievements in improving the health status for the population in general and for women in particular. In 2002, the average life expectancy for women was 70.6,[16][16] whereas the level in 1995 was 67.5.[17][17] The average life expectancy for men was 65.9 in 2002 but 63 in 1995.

 

The rate of maternal and infant mortality dropped rapidly in the past years. Infant mortality has seen a sharp decrease Ĝ more than 20% in a decade. According to the statistics for 2001, the mortality rate among children under one year of age was 36.7%, with 40.2% for boys and 32.9% for girls. The mortality rate among children under five years old was 42%, while the maternal mortality rate was 95 per 100,000 live births. These rates in Vietnam are much better than those of other countries having the same GDP per capita.[18][18]

 

Reproductive health care in Vietnam has also seen a significant change. The abortion rate reduced from 44.5% in 2000 to 41.22% in 2001. The greater convenience of reproductive health care services has enabled users and couples to be more pro-active in selecting appropriate, modern contraceptive methods. The number of the users has continuously increased, from 62.1% in 1999 to 76.9% in 2002.[19][19]

 

Malnutrition prevention for people in general and pregnant mothers and children under five in particular have achieved encouraging results. The rate of anemia among pregnant women dropped from 52% in 1995 to 32.2% in 2000; the rate of malnourishment among children under five years has dropped from 36.7% in 1999 to 30.1% in 2002 and then down to 28% in late 2003. The rate in newborns less than 2500 grams decreased from 7.97% in 1999 to 4.16% in 2002. As such, from 1995 until now, the average annual reduction rate among malnourished children has been 2%. The international community has recognized this as a rapid reduction.[20][20]

 

3.2 Government Policies and Programs

 

During the past years, the Government of Vietnam has issued a number of legal documents directed toward the health of the people. The objective has been to protect equality and voluntary access and assure each individual's right to be pro-active in enjoyment of stable and qualified health care services. Documents have included the 1995 Ordinance on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, the 2003 Ordinance on Food Safety and Hygiene, the 2003 Ordinance on Private Medicine and Pharmacies, the Strategy on Health Care and Protection of People’s Health for 2001-2010, the National Strategy on Nutrition for 2001-2010, the National Targeted Programs on the Prevention of Dangerous Social Diseases and Epidemics (e.g. malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, goiter, expanded vaccination, protection of community mental health, etc.), as well as many other policies.

 

Vietnam has set up a nationwide health care network. According to statistics from 2002, there are 13,051 health establishments in Vietnam. All provinces and all districts have health care facilities, and 98% of the communes/wards have health centers. As of late 2002, all communes and wards in the country had health workers, of whom the proportion of doctors increased from 33.86% in 1999 to 60.60% in 2002.

 

To ensure health care for poor people, the Government issued Decision No 139/2002/QD-TTg, which entitles poor people to buy health insurance cards and be exempt from payment of any health services amounting from VND 50,000 to VND 70,000 per person per year. At present, about 6 million women a year benefit from this policy.

 

The Government has addressed the question of health care for older people in general and older women in particular through the Ordinance on Population. Older people now enjoy priority in health examinations and treatment in health facilities. Those above 90 years of age are provided free health insurance cards according to the Government’s Degree No 120/2003/CP.

 

The Government developed its National Program on HIV/AIDS Prevention with the participation of ministries, sectors, and mass organizations. The National Program on HIV/AIDS Prevention for 1996-2001 resulted a range of important documents reflecting a strong commitment by the Government on HIV/AIDS-prevention activities throughout the country.

 

In line with the National Program, a relatively comprehensive organizational system for HIV/AIDS prevention has been developed across the country. This system enables the mobilization of resources from the Government and the international community for the implementation of significant preventive activities to slow the epidemic’s spread. Currently, the Government is implementing its Strategy on HIV/AIDS Prevention for 2001-2005, which focuses on the promotion of support and care for people infected with HIV/AIDS and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

 

3.3 NGO Contributions

 

3.3.1Communication Materials

 

The Vietnam Women's Union and Vietnamese NGOs have engaged in the following activities:

 

- Developed and published brochures, leaflets, and posters on different topics, such as health care for infants, care for pregnant mothers, nutrition, HIV/AIDS and STDs, health care for adolescents, etc.

 

- Published the magazine Reproductive Health to disseminate information on women’s health in general and women’s reproductive health in particular.

 

- Organized communication campaigns about population issue, family planning, safe motherhood, reproductive health care for adolescents, safe sex, breastfeeding, etc.

 

- Conducted IEC activities to raise women’s knowledge about population issues and family planning.

 

3.3.1Academic Studies

 

- Studied reproductive health and sexuality for women, single women, adolescents, women migrants, etc.

 

- Studied women and RTIs ( reproductive transmitted infections) and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

 

- Studied on pregnant women: diet habit, nutrition regime.

 

Interventions

 

- Organized free health examinations, treatment, and family-planning services for women in communes in poor and remote areas; organized free health examinations and treatment for older people in rural and ethnic-minority areas.

 

- Provided training on reproductive health, safe sex, and breastfeeding for community-based volunteers.

 

- Trained mid-wives and commune/village health workers on reproductive health, breastfeeding, family planning, and health care for infants and pregnant women.

 

- Provided equipment for health facilities for commune health centers to raise the quality of primary health care and reproductive health care.

 

3.4 Obstacles and Causes

 

3.4.1 Obstacles

 

3.4.1.1 Women and HIV/AIDS

 

Currently the HIV/AIDS infection rate among men is much higher than that among women (85.31% compared with about 14.4%). However, according to Ministry of Health focused monitoring, the infection rate among pregnant women has seen a rapid increase from 0.04% in 1996 to 0.19% in 2000 to 0.34% in 2002. At present, there are 2,500 infected Vietnamese children from birth to fourteen years. Among those, some 400 children under five years of age were infected from their mothers. The HIV infection rate among prostitutes is also increasing, from 0.85% in 1995 to 1.46% in 1997 to 4.33% in 2000.[21][21]

 

All pregnant women receiving treatment in large big obstetrical and gynecological hospitals are tested for HIV/AIDS. Despite the increasing number of pregnant women tested annually (from 27,000 in 1996 to 54,000 in 2000), this remains a small number when compared with the more than 1.5 million newborns each year.[22][22] This means that a high number of pregnant women are not tested. The reasons are the lack of HIV testing services especially in remote and mountainous areas and the high cost of tests for poor pregnant women.

 

Counseling for pregnant women who are HIV positive is not implemented properly because health workers are not trained in counseling skills in general and for this target group in particular. As a result, health workers feel confused while trying to counsel infected mothers.

 

Gender issues have not been addressed in the content of IEC materials on HIV/AIDS. Although some materials mention that infection risks are higher for women than men, the root causes residing in gender relationships remain untouched. Cultural ethical norms about the assumed right of the patriarchy and women’s dignity are not included in the communication messages.[23][23] In addition, male responsibility for practicing safe sex and caring for AIDS patients is not emphasized.

 

3.4.1.2 Women and Family Planning

 

The current rate of female modern contraceptive users in Vietnam is relatively high: oral pills: 11.4%, IUD: 57% (in 2003).[24][24] However, the rate of male users of family planning methods such as condoms and sterilization remains low:7.5% for condoms and 0.5% for sterilization (in 2003).[25][25] The rate is still low even in the context that condoms are considered an effective method for the prevention of STDs and HIV/AIDS. This reflects the limited participation of men in family planning and the fact that the main burden for family planning remains with women.

 

The abortion rate is high in Vietnam, at 2.5 procedures per woman. [26][26]An alarming issue is the relatively high abortion rate among adolescents. According to the Ministry of Health, abortion cases among adolescents annually in Vietnam account for about 1/5 of the total abortions cases.

 

3.4.1.3 Women's Health and Nutrition

 

The anemia rate is still high in Vietnam among women in general and pregnant women in particular. According to the national 2000 anemia survey, the rate among women, which is 24.3%, is much higher than that among men, which is 9.4%. The survey findings also show that the rate among pregnant women is 32.2%. The further along in the pregnancy and the higher the number of pregnancies, the higher the rate of anemia.[27][27]

 

3.4.1.4 Women’s Access to Health Services

 

At present, urban and rural areas show a clear differential in access to and usage of pregnancy care services. The rate of women giving birth at home is still high, with 26.93% among rural women and 5.46% among urban women. The main reason for home births is “not having time to go to the health center.”

 

The findings of the 2001-2002 National Health Survey reveal that there is a disproportion in access to health services between men and women. Women tend to choose private centers and communal health care centers more than men (5.13% vs. 3.25% for private centers and 18.44% vs. 12.09% for communal health centers), while men tend to go to provincial and central hospitals more than women (45.1% vs. 39.93%).

 

Reproductive health and family planning services target only married women. Unmarried women, including female adolescents and single, divorced, widowed, and separate women have limited access to information and reproductive health and family planning services.

 

3.4.1.5The Health System

 

The rate of health centers meeting the requirements set up by Ministry of Health is very low, at 9.8%. Thus, most health centers have a poor base. Further, there is no separate health system for the two target groups at very high risk of reproductive health problems Ĝ female adolescents and older women. Health studies on older and post menopausal women show that older women face many health problems, especially reproductive health problems.

 

3.4.2 Causes

 

- At present health statistics have no gender disaggregating. Thus, policy makers do not recognize women’s health problems.

 

- Gender prejudice reduces women’s access to health services. Women are expected to be the family's main care-giver and, in addition to everything else, must take care of any family members who are ill. As a result, women have even less time to then to their own health.

 

- In Vietnam, sexual issues are not discussed openly between couples. In addition, women have far less decision power than men regarding their sexual relationships as well as in negotiating with their partners on safe sex.

 

- The Government’s policy requiring hospitals to collect part of health-care visits means that many poor women, rural women afford health care.

 

- The grassroots-based health system does not address gender needs. Women need and use the reproductive health care and family planning services provided by most communal health centers. It is very clear that a “gender neutral” health care system can lead to reduction of women’s access to health services. Women are reluctant to go to communal health centers that serve both men and women. This is especially true for women from remote areas and for single women.

 

- The sex of health workers is an obstacle to women’ access to health services. Female patients, especially those from rural areas, are reluctant to go for examinations when the doctors are men. Attitude of health workers also affects access to health services of people especially poor people, prostitutes, and adolescents.

 

- Distance is a major cause of reduced access to health services among people of ethnic minority groups in remote areas with a small population and poor road access. These conditions are harder for women. In some areas, women may pass several years without going to a central market area with access to other public services.[28][28] This is a reason ethnic-minority women often do not have health examinations during pregnancy and do not give birth in communal health centers.

 

- The control of STDs and HIV/AIDS among prostitutes and males who are sex buyers is not effective.

 

- The budget for health care services, especially at the grassroots level, is insufficient.

 

3.5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

The decrease of population growth rate and the drop in average family size as well as the rise of the living standard creates a good opportunity for people, especially women, to have better health care. The improvement of infrastructure in rural areas has improved access to medical centers. Further, the attention given by international and Vietnamese NGOs working in health has been trying to improve women's health

 

The development of a private health system is an active contribution to health care for the people in general and women in particular.

 

The Program of Action for Health Communication and Education to 2010 was approved by Ministry of Health in Oct 2004. The program helps increase awareness and promote participation by mass organizations and governmental authorities at all levels as well as political and social organizations, communities and individuals in terms of the people’s health care and health protection and improvement.

 

Vietnam has developed a National Strategy on HIV/AIDS Prevention to 2010 and Vision to 2020. The overall goal of the Strategy is to keep the HIV/AIDS infection rate in residential areas under 0.3% by 2010 and at a non-increased after 2010 and to reduce the HIV/AIDS impact on socio-economic development. Furthermore, the goal of the Vision is to strengthen HIV/AIDS prevention in the period 2004-2010, reduce the number of infections and minimize HIV/Aids’s impact on socio-economic development after 2010.

 

A law on gender equality is being drafted. Its formulation will contribute to better realization of women’s equality in health care field.

 

3.6 Recommendations

 

3.6.1Recommendations Relating to Policy

 

- The Government should have appropriate policies on management of prostitutes and sex buyers to reduce the risks of STDs and HIV/AIDS infection in communities. Both sex buyers and sex sellers should be punished.

 

- The Government should develop separate policies on health care for girl children and for older women.

 

- The Government should encourage the development of a private health care system while at the same time have a policy on the management of the private facilities including the monitoring of the quality of private health services.

 

- The Government should have policies regarding pregnant women and children who are infected with HIV/AIDS.

 

3.6.2Recommendations Relating to Studies and Interventions

 

- The State’s research agencies and Vietnamese NGOs should conduct studies and research on girl children and older women to identify their health care needs.

 

- The Government, the Ministry of Health and Vietnamese NGOs should strengthen their IEC activities regarding health and health care for women and children in rural, mountainous, and remote areas with the focus on unmarried and poor women.

 

- The Committee on Population, Family and Children should offer a number of contraceptive methods and services to create favorable conditions for men to share responsibility for family planning and the practice of safe sex.

 

- The State should invest more in its health system, especially grassroots health care, in order to increase the access of ordinary people, especially poor women, to health care services.

 

4. VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

 

4.1. General Situation

 

Violence against women takes two forms: social and domestic violence. This is one of the most widespread crimes in violation of the human rights of women. It's a problem that prevails throughout the world. So far, there are no official national statistics on the forms of this violence in Vietnam. However, its indicators have been defined.

 

According to the cases that have been officially dealt with and according to incomplete statistics, during the last eight years, there have been 11,630 cases of domestic violence as follows: 515 in Ba Ria -Vung Tau Province, 819 in Khanh Hoa Province, 1,123 in Thai Binh Province, 1,484 in Ha Tay Province, 967 in Ninh Thuan Province and 2,002 in Kien Giang.

 

Most cases took the form of violence by a husband against his wife and by adults toward children. The rest was violence by family members towards each other, such as grown-up children to parents, husband's parents to daughter-in-law, and among siblings and relatives.

 

Prevailing domestic violence – e.g. husband battering wife and causing serious injuries - is not regularly reported because in many areas it is commonly accepted thinking in a community that a husband can teach his wife. Therefore, domestic violence is under-reported. Because of its sensitive nature, domestic violence remains among the most hidden evils. It is one of the most important causes of family break-down, resulting in an increased prevalence of separation, divorce, infidelity, homelessness, prostitution, and trafficking in women and children.

 

Domestic violence is also the cause of a number of suicides and forced suicides, in which the victims are mainly women and children. According court statistics from 1998, domestic violence, under-age marriage, forced marriage, and adultery account for 44% of divorces at the provincial level and over 60% at district level. These rates tend to drop in 1999 – 2003 as low as about 20% at provincial and 52% at district level.

 

The Government is turning its attention to the issue of violence against women. Laws and government policies are being strengthened to fight violence against women and trafficking in women and children within and outside of Vietnam's borders. The Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) has set up a Department to Combat Social Evils, with its work currently guided by a deputy Prime Minister. In addition, the Government has assigned seven ministries to issue various policies to fight the evils that violate women's rights to live with dignity.

 

4.2. Government Policies

 

The existing laws of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam regulate the combat of violence against women through a number of articles in the Constitution, Criminal Code, and Law on Marriage and Family. For example, Article 63 of the 1992 Constitution (revised in 2001) states: Male and female citizens have equal rights in all fields Ĝ political, economic, cultural, social, and the family” and“All acts of discrimination against women and all acts damaging women's dignity are strictly banned.

 

According to Article 146 in Chapter XV of the Law on Marriage and Family, those who force marriage or hinder voluntary marriage will be subject to a warning and non-custodial reform for a period up to three years or to a term of imprisonment of between three months and three years. Article 151 in Chapter XV deals with physical abuse or ill treatment of grandparents, parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, and care-givers.

 

Some other legal documents also emphasize the need to fight discrimination against women. For example, Article 12 of the 1992 Law on Government Organization articulates the responsibility of the Government and authorities at various levels to "...implement policies and measures to ensure equality between men and women in all fields… take preventive and reactive measures to eliminate discrimination against women and the violation of women's dignity.”

 

The Criminal Code also has articles to deal with injury to other people, trafficking in persons, and forced prostitution. Besides, there are many specific policies, decrees, and ordinances, such as the Decree on the Prevention of Prostitution.

 

4.3. NGO Contributions

 

During recent years, the Women's Union and various other domestic NGOs as well as INGOs have cooperated in efforts to stop violence against women. The INGOs active in this field include ActionAid Vietnam (AAV), Cooperation International Pour Development et La Solidarite (CIDSE), Quaker Service – American Friend Service Committee (AFSC), Save the Children UK (SC UK), Oxfam Great Britain (Oxfam GB), Oxfam Quebec (Oxfam Q), and Population Council.

 

Some of their Vietnamese counterparts are the Vietnam Women's Union; the Research Center for Gender and Development (RCGAD); the Center for Education, Promotion and Empowerment for Women (CEPEW); the Center for Reproductive and Family Health (RaFH); and the Research Center for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) These NGOs have implemented a number of research and intervention projects with the aim to stop domestic violence against women and to stop the trafficking in women and children.

 

A selection of their studies about domestic violence against women includes:

 

- A study, Trends of Intra-Household Gender Equality in Health and Population Programs in Vietnam,” undertaken in Hanoi and in Thai Binh and Phu Tho Provinces by RCGAD in cooperation with the Vietnam Women's Union (VWU).

 

- A study implemented by RaPH and supported by UNFPA (the United National Family Planning Agency) and SDC (Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation) in 2002-2005.

 

- A project to build an intervention model in Hanoi's Gia Lam District, implemented by the Population Council in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and supported by the Ford Foundation in Vietnam.

 

- A study, “Violence on the Basis of Gender" by the Institute of Sociology with World Bank support.

 

- A study, “Violence Against Women and Family and Health Workers' Attitudes and Behaviors” by RaFH in Hanoi and Ninh Binh in 2001.

 

A selection of research and program interventions to counter trafficking in women and children include:

 

- A study, “Anti-Trafficking in Women in Mekong River Area” in 1996 in 2000 by the Youth Research Institute, RCGAD, the Ho Chi Minh City Women's Union, and the Tay Ninh Women's Union in collaboration with the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) and the Cambodia Women's Association and with support from the Dutch Government. The project was undertaken in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh Cities and in Quang Ninh, Lang Son, Hai Duong, and Tay Ninh Provinces.

 

- An intervention, “Community Participatory Actions Against Trafficking in Women” by ActionAid in Ha Giang, Dien Bien Phu, and Ninh Thuan Provinces.

 

- A communication project to fight trafficking in women in seven provinces: Cao Bang, Lao Cai, Ha Giang, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, and Tay Ninh by ActionAid in cooperation with the Vietnam Women's Union.

 

- A project, “Community-Based Initiatives to Fight Trafficking in Children,” by Save the Children UK, Save the Children Sweden, and Oxfam Quebec in cooperation with Youth Research Institute, RCGAD, and the Institute of Sociology in Bac Giang, Lang Son and Quang Ninh Provinces.

 

- Organizations such as the Youth Research Institute, RCGAD, IOM, ActionAid, Save the Children UK, and Oxfam Quebec have been developing projects to assist women victims returning to their localities.

 

NGOs have organized many training courses for local leaders to improve awareness on gender and the causes and consequences of domestic violence and trafficking in women, including:

 

- “Domestic violence” by VWU and RCGAD in Thai Binh Province.

 

- Training by Quaker Service and RCGAD in Thanh Hoa Province.

 

- Training in Dai Dong Commune by CGFED with ICCO support.

 

- Training on anti-trafficking in children implemented by Youth Research Institute and RCGAD for local officials in Quang Ninh, Bac Giang and Lang Son Provinces for a project, “Community-based initiatives to fight trafficking in women and children” undertaken by Save the Children UK, Save the Children Sweden and Oxfam Quebec.

 

- A project on violence against women by RaFH in Ninh Binh Province.

 

NGOs have also developed many types of training materials for community participation to counter violence against women and trafficking in women and children. NGOs (such as SAGA, Youth Research Institute and AAV) have had projects at the local level, where they have cooperated with the local Women's Union and the Youth Association to provide IEC through: radio; the loudspeaker system; the publication of books, leaflets, handbooks, posters; banners; and documentary films These give the population and the community appropriate awareness on these issues and urge them to take action.

 

Many types of club have been set up at the grassroots level, involving both husbands and wives so that husbands become aware of their responsibility in countering violence against women. Counseling organizations have been set up in many places, particularly in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. These inform women and the general population about issues related to violence against women and also help women take preventive and protective measures against violence. Hotlines have been established for emergencies, giving timely support to victims in an effort to stop violence.

 

4.4. Obstacles and Causes

 

Neither laws nor the community at large has effectively ended domestic violence, which harms women and children's health, dignity, and lives. Social problems Ĝ such as under-age marriage, dowry requests, son preference, disguised concubines, illiteracy, low education levels, hierarchical and harsh kinship relations, discrimination on the basis of sex, prevention and hindering girl children from enrolling in school, and forcing girls into under-age marriage Ĝ are undermining equality between men and women.

 

The practice of wife beating or ill treatment exists even among intellectuals, state employees and local government officers. The thinking that one “respects men and looks down on women” still prevails in many localities. In some places, it is still common for the husband to enjoy his drink and meal alone while the wife and children are working in the kitchen and may eat only after he has finished. He can beat them if they do not follow his orders. In many families, the money earned with so much hardship by the wife (by petty trading or illegally exploiting wood and bamboos in the forests) is not enough to keep support her husband's drinking, gambling and illicit drug use. Indeed, even more serious is the fact that some women are involved with drug trading to finance their addicted husbands.

 

Gaps between laws and practice remain. According to a report by the IEC Department of the Vietnam Women's Union, by 1998, after more than ten years of implementing the 1980 Law on Marriage and the Family, a number of articles had rarely been applied. In many cases, the court's judgments were not effectively enforced. The issues of women and children's lodging and rights to land and property after divorce were not taken seriously taken, leaving them even further disadvantaged.

 

Although communication materials on violence against women are available, they do not fit the requirements of reality and fail broadly to change the awareness and practice in the community themselves, especially among men. Projects countering violence against women are small, scattered, inconsistent, and located far from national level. Thus, so far, a mass movement against domestic violence has not been raised. Networking among organizations in this field remains vague and ineffective. Research activities are limited and small due to scarce financial support.

 

4.5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

Vietnam has many good lessons concerning anti-domestic violence from the 1954 – 1975 period in the North. Partly as a result, state policies on gender issues are progressive and in support of efforts to counter domestic violence. These days, there are opportunities for Vietnam to benefit from international cooperation in this field. This cooperation in fact has been very effective recently. In addition, the progressing economic growth resulting in social and cultural reforms provides a good foundation to solve social problems. Although projects to counter domestic violence face many difficulties, the effort is moving ahead and reaching down to the grassroots.

 

4.6 Recommendations

 

The Vietnam Women's Union and Vietnamese NGOs recommend the following to counter violence against women and trafficking in women and children:

 

- The Government should clearly define the responsibilities of agencies concerned in preventing, reacting, and effectively solving the problem of ill treatment of women.

 

- NGOs should work hand in hand with the Government to improve policies and law enforcement mechanisms to prevent violence against women and to punish perpetrators.

 

- Both the Government and NGOs should expand communication activities to change the awareness and behaviors of authorities and population and to mobilize the whole society to stop violence against women. This is a social problem and must be solved by entire society, not just by the Government and concerned agencies.

 

- Both the Government and NGOs should promote the role of NGOs in developing specific models that deal with violence against women because the NGOs are smaller, can more easily reach the grassroots level and are quicker to notice new changes.

 

- Both the Government and NGOs should enhance the development of Cultural Villages, where the dignity and safety of women and children are respected.

 

5. Women and economy and employmen

 

5.1 General Situation

 

Seventy three percent of Vietnamese women are economically active, whereas the economic participation rate is nearly the same for men and women: 86% for women and 86.8% for men. After nearly two decades of Renovation (Doi Moi), the economic growth rate has been sustained at around 7%.[29][29]

 

The percentage of women facing underemployment has been remarkably reduced from 62% in 1993 to 52% in 1998. For men, the rate has been reduced from 59% to 53% in the same period.[30][30] The average unemployment rate in the city is 3.9% and 4.2% in women and men respectively.[31][31]

 

Chart 1: Female-Concentrated Economic Sectors

 

Chart 2: Male-Concentrated Economic Sectors

Source: GSO. 1999 General Population and Housing Survey. (Hanoi: Statistics Publishing House, 2001).

 

Although men and women participate in the labor market at the same rate, they are concentrated in different sectors. (Chart 1 and 2).

 

The areas with a low representation of women are administrative management and the sciences. The representation of men in leadership is higher even in job sectors where there are high concentrations of women, such as the garment and textile industries and primary education.

 

In the early 1990s, state-owned enterprises and state administrative agencies were re-organized and trimmed. As a result, about 550,000 women were laid off compared to about 300,000 men. At the moment, the Vietnamese Government is continuing to equitize state-owned enterprises. Women account for 60% of those dismissed.

 

Women are also often dismissed as a result of their non-permanent presence at work (maternity leave or child sick leave) and their inability to meet new requirements of production.

 

Many studies reveal that the women feel more capable and self-reliant in the new economic system. Self-employment is very popular in Vietnam for both men and women. However, women in both the urban and rural areas tend to rely more on self-employed jobs than men (See Chart 3).

 

Chart 3: Proportion of Self-Employment Among the Employed (ages 18-64), 1997-1998

 

Source: Gender Disparities in the Transitional Economy of Vietnam. (Hanoi: FAO & UNDP, 2002) p. 9.

 

Among non-agricultural businesses, women often operate those in the sales and services sectors, while men tend to work more in production. In both rural and urban areas, women tend to engage in retail, hotel and restaurant businesses, and garment production. Men tend to engage in manufacturing and processing businesses.

 

This disaggregation shows that women's businesses are often smaller in size than the businesses of men. Usually the average turnover and profit of businesses run by women are also lower than those run by men. This happens in all economic sectors except for services. Women-owned businesses in this sector in urban areas often have higher average turnover and profit. Women account for 92% of the new jobs created annually in agriculture.

 

During recent years, men have moved from agricultural to non-agricultural jobs, including self-employment and wage employment. Women's labor is dominant in agriculture, including farming, forestry, animal raising, and processing and selling agricultural products.[32][32] Besides women produce handicrafts and work as wage laborers. Meanwhile, men earn their income mainly from wage labor and construction.[33][33]

 

According to the 1997-1998 survey of living standards in Vietnam, women in all age groups work nearly twice as much time on housework as men.[34][34] Yet this does not mean that women can spend fewer hours to earn their income. Women are the majority of those working 51-60 hours and more a week.

 

In-depth studies show that rural women in Vietnam typically work 16-18 hours a day, i.e. on average 6-8 hours a day longer than men.[35][35]

 

5.2 Government Policies

 

During the past decade, the Vietnam Government has taken many measures and drawn up policies to create employment opportunities, such as implementing the National Program for Job Creation and expanding labor and expert export. Every year, the Government spends about 200 billion VND (USD 12,740,000) on job creation. Since 2003, households, cooperatives, and small and medium production units have been able to borrow from the National Program for Job Creation as much as 15 million VND (USD 950) without collateral. Priority is given to the disabled and to businesses that employ many women.

 

In addition to the policies that directly create jobs, the Vietnam Government is introducing many other policies and encouraging domestic and foreign investments that indirectly bring about new jobs. The policy of supporting the private economic sector also produces employment opportunities; in particular, the service sector provides women with many new jobs. At the same time, according to investment policies, the enterprises employing many women can benefit from tax exemption or tax reduction.

 

5.3 NGO Contributions

 

During the past decade, NGOs have:

 

- Supported women and household businesses, with special attention given to job creation.

 

- Trained farmers on household economic development.

 

- Provided credit for poor women's productive activities.

 

- Trained the poor on how to plan production and how to access bank credit.

- Provided off-farm job training for women and farmers.

 

 

5.4 Problems and Causes

 

5.4.1Problems

 

5.4.1.1 Employment

 

The market economy is creating many employment opportunities for both men and women, but also many challenges, especially for women. In addition, industrialization and modernization require highly technical labor, professional expertise, education degrees, and foreign language skills, which are more available in the male labor force (See Chart 4).

 

Women face more difficulties in finding jobs. They have less time to improve their education and to look for employment opportunities due to their reproductive function (giving birth and caring for children, the sick, and the elderly).

 

Chart 4: Education Level by Sex

 

Source: Vietnam Population Living Standard Survey (Hanoi: GSO, 1997-1998).

 

Gender disparity is very clear in paid work. The percentage of women working for payment is just half that of men. Men and women are unequal in real income. Women's average payment per hour is only 85.4% that of men. Women's salaries are lower than those of men in all sectors (See Table 3).

 

Table 3: Average Income/Person/Month of the 15-and-Above Population from Wage Employment (Employment of the Longest Period During Last 12 Months) by Sex

 

Unit:: 1,000 VND (Current exchange rate: US $ 1= VND 15,700

 

 

General

Agricul-ture,

Forestry

& fishery

Agri-

cultural

Com-

ponent

Non-agri.,

fores-try

& fishery

Of which

Industry

Commerce

Services

Male

875.62

468.85

403.39

978.01

1000.28

1238.27

1101.27

Female

747.85

308.15

293.66

868.02

783.43

1050.52

932.58

Compared to male (%)

85.40%

65.72%

72.80%

88.75%

78.32%

84.84%

84.68%

 

Source: 2002 Household Living Standard Survey. (Hanoi: GSO Statistics Publishing House, 2004).

 

Most of the less-educated women work in the informal sector. Women account for 70% of the informal labor force and the intra-household activities.[36][36] one of the most serious concerns about gender equality is retirement age in the formal sector: Women retire at 55 and men at 60. Since they retire five years earlier, women receive fewer retirement benefits than men.

 

The Vietnamese population living in the countryside is 76,3%, and two thirds of them live on agriculture.[37][37] Women make up 68% of the agricultural labor force.[38][38]

 

5.4.1.2. Funds and Credit

 

Credit is an important condition for agricultural investment and production. Women tend to face more difficulties than men in accessing formal sources of credit, such as state commercial banks including the Vietnam Bank for Agriculture, Bank for the Poor, and People's Credit Funds. They represent the majority of borrowers in the informal sector, where they face higher interest rates and limited funds. Less than 10% of loans from the Viet Nam Bank of Agriculture are given to women and one district-level study revealed that only 2.5% of borrowers from the Vietnam Bank for Agriculture were women.[39][39]

 

Data from the 1998 Vietnam Living Standard Survey show that women hold 41% of all loans, but only 29 % of loans from official sources.[40][40] It is estimated that 70% of loans come from the informal sector (i.e. private ones), usually of an interest rate of 5-6 times higher than loans from a bank.[41][41] Surveys report that in Viet Nam men generally dominate in decisions related to borrowing money and investing loan funds. only when women are able to access credit through specialized programs do they control loan funds.5.4.1.3 The Relationship Between Land-Use Rights and Credit

 

Land is an irreplaceable resource in agricultural production. Although the Circular on Land Use Rights Certificates was introduced as follow-up to the 2003 Land Law, the issuance of new land-use right certificates with both the husband and wife's names has only just been piloted in a number of localities. Therefore, in most cases, women's names are yet to be written on the certificates. only 2.3% of the households in the whole country have land-use right certificates with the names of both spouses.[42][42] This creates additional barriers to women using these documents as collateral for credit.

 

In addition, many rural families are landless because there is no more land for new division. The children born in 1994 and after are entitled to a portion of land, but the local land fund is empty. Meanwhile, families can keep pieces of land that once belonged to the deceased instead of returning them to local authorities for new division. Now, there are more and more rural families without farming land. Without either a piece of land or a job, they often work as wage laborers for other households. Most of them fall into the poverty trap.[43][43]

 

5.4.1. Agricultural Extension Training

 

Women are less likely to participate in agricultural extension training than men, and extension services fail to meet specific needs of women farmers.[44][44] Women account for only 25% of the total participants in husbandry training and 10% in farming training programs.[45][45]

 

5.4.2Causes

 

- Agricultural extension policies fail to recognize women farmers’ specific needs, and gender issues have not been included in the studies, planning, or implementation of any program/activity initiated by the agricultural extension offices.[46][46]

 

- Policies on job creation, credit, market information and access, and women business support are not sufficiently gender sensitive.

 

- Agricultural extension officers are mostly men, and they tend to work with men rather than women.

 

- Women are less likely to be self-confident and present their requests in a mixed group of men and women. They prefer separate training without men present.[47][47] They do not feel comfortable in a meeting with men’s presence and they do not participate.

 

- Most of agricultural extension training courses do not directly target women.

 

- Women must work longer hours than men in both productive activities and housework. As a result, they have less time to attend training sessions.

 

- Women face other obstacles as well. Women themselves think that it is enough for their husband to attend trainings and that as women they do not need to attend.[48][48]

 

5.5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

- The private sector of developing fields will create many employment opportunities for both women and men. If they can access the education system at all levels, women will be capable of meeting the requirements of new jobs in the labor market.

 

- The Government’s policy of investment in rural areas and in agriculture development will facilitate rural women’s job transition.

 

5.6Recommendations

 

There need to be support policies for developing the private sector and healthy competition between the private and state-owned sectors.

 

6. WOMEN IN DECISION MAKING

 

6.1 General Situation

 

6.1.1Women in Elective Bodies

The following table shows the growth in the involvement of women in elective bodies.

 

Table 1: Women in Elective Bodies:

Unit: %

Position

1992-1997

2002-2007

1994-1999

2004-2007

Increase

National Assembly Deputies

18.50

27.30

 

 

8.80

Provincial People’s Council Members

 

 

20.40

23.88

3.48

District People’s Council Members[49][49]

 

 

18.10

23.01

4.91

Communal People’s Council Members

 

 

14.40

19.53

5.13

 

Source:National Assembly Office -1997, 2003; Ministry of Internal Affairs, 2004.

 

Table 2: Women in State Management:

 

Position

1989 – 1994

(%)

1999 – 2004

(%)

Increase/decrease

(+; -)

Ministers and Equivalent

9.52

11.29

1.77 (+)

Deputy Ministers and Equivalent

7.05

12.85

5.80 (+)

Chiefs of Department

13.03

12.20

0.83 (-)

Deputy Chiefs of Department

8.90

8.10

0.80 (-)

Chairs of Provincial People’s Committees

2.00

3.00

1.00 (+)

Chairs of District People’s Committees

1.40

5.27

3.87 (+)

Chairs of Communal People’s Committees

2.80

3.02

0.22 (+)

 

Source:Document of the National Congress of the Vietnam Women's Union, 2002.

 

Review Report on the Implementation of Directive 37 on Women Cadre Affairs, 2004.

 

The number of women in leadership and decision-making positions has increased remarkably during the last ten years, particularly in the National Assembly and in People’s Councils at all levels. From 1994 to 2004, representation by women in the National Assembly increased 8.8%. Women chair three out of seven National Assembly Committees, that is, 42%. The percentage of women in the People’s Councils at all levels has increased by 3 - 5%. (See Table 1). There are also women representatives in high raking positions, including Vice President of the State, members of the Party Central Committee, ministers, and equivalent levels. At the local level, women are chairs of People’s Councils and People’s Committees on the provincial, district, and local levels.

 

Women cadres have improved in both percentage of representation and expertise. Many professionally capable and experienced women have become leaders and managers in political, economic, and social fields. Women staff are distinct in that “… they continuously make efforts to advance themselves, successfully accomplish their duties, and make a good contribution to the common development of the country and to gender equality.

 

“No matter where they work, women staff members demonstrate a high sense of responsibility, honesty, frankness, modesty, a willingness to listen, practice of democracy in leadership and management, good convincing ability, close supervision of grassroots situation, high merit, thrifty, and good immunity to corruption, as such they earn good prestige in society…”[50][50]

 

The percentage of women in the leadership and management of government agencies from the central level to the local has increased, but slowly, by 1-2%, but has decreased in at the departmental level (See Table 2). In general, the increase of women in leadership and decision making is not proportional to the increase in the number and expertise of the women labor force since women make up 48% of the total workforce of the country.

 

In-depth analysis of the role of women cadre shows that:

 

The lower the level, the fewer women in leadership and decision making (See Table 2).

 

Women tend to be deputies, instead of chairs, and they hold positions of little influence in decision making. In other words, power is still with men.

 

Most of women leaders work in the social sectors. There are very few of them in strategic bodies such as the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) or the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is in charge of training, capacity-building, assignment and promotion of state employees. Thus, all the three female chairs of the National Assembly Committees and the three female ministers Ĝ the Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs; the Minister of Health; and the Minister for Population, Family and Children Ĝ work in social sectors.[51][51] However, there are no deputy ministers in the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Women account for only 5.4% of the ministerial department heads and 16.2% of the deputy department heads.[52][52] There are no women in the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, including in its Personnel Department, and its Training and Refresher Training Department.[53][53]

 

The representation of women in the Party leadership shows no remarkable increase and has even decreased at the central level (See Table 3). The lack of significant representation by women at this level is a point of significant concern.

 

Table 3: Women in Party Committees[54][54]

 

Level

1996 – 2000

2001- 2006

Comparison

Central

10.59 %

8.60 %

2.10 % decrease

Municipal/Provincial

11.30 %

11.32 %

0.02 % increase

Quarter/District

11.68 %

12.89 %

1.21 % increase

Ward/Communal

10.73 %

11.88 %

1.15 % increase

 

Source: Organization Commission of the Party Central Committee, 2003.

 

6.1.2Women in Research and in Scientific and Training Management

 

The group of women intellectuals is expanding. Women make up 3.3% of professors, 13.34% of associate professors, 17.55% of doctors and associate doctors, and 39.10% of those with masters degrees. [55][55] However, few women leaders serve as heads of related ministries, departments, or institutes.

 

There are no female ministers or deputy ministers in ministry-equivalent agencies such as the National Center of Social Sciences and Humanities; the National Center of Science and Technology; the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy; and the Ministry of Science and Technology.[56][56]

 

Only 6.5% of directors of tertiary education institutions are women.[57][57] This means that in the eighteen institutes of the National Center of Science and Technology, there are only two women serving as directors of institutes and only five as deputy directors. In the forty departments and institutes of the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy, there are no female institute directors and only five deputy directors.

 

The above data highlight the gender disparity in science, technology, and training.

 

6.2Government Policies and Programs

 

In accordance with implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action, the Vietnamese Government designed its first Strategy and a National Program of Action for the Advancement of Vietnamese Women Toward 2000, in which the goal was clearly stated: “To enhance the role and position of women in the participation of leadership and the decision-making process.”

 

The Government developed its second Strategy for the Advancement of Women Toward 2010 and its national Program of Action to 2005. Those documents set out the following goals:

 

Achieve the rate of 15% of female members in the Party’s committees at all levels and 30% in the National Assembly.

 

Achieve the rate of 28% of female members in provincial People’s Councils, 23% in the district People’s Councils, and 18% in the commune’s People’s Councils for the 2004-2009 term.

 

In order to promote the implementation of the Strategy and the National Program of Action for the Advancement of Women, the Party and the State promulgated instructions and directives, including;

 

Directive 49-CT/TW by the Central Committee’s Secretariat, to ensure a certain ratio of female cadres in elections for the National Assembly and People’s Councils elections at all levels (1999);

 

Directive 31-CT/TW by the Politburo dated 26 November 2003 to provide guidance for the People’s Council at all levels for the 2004-2009 term;

 

Decision 49/QD-TTg dated 08 January 2003 by the Prime Minister to issue instructions on standards for representatives to People’s Council’s and the personnel procedures for the People’s Councils and Committees for the 2004-2009.

 

These guideline documents and others have led to an increase in the participation of women in Party committees and representative bodies. However, representation has yet to reach the targeted ratio stipulated the Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women. The percentage of the National Assembly’s female members for the 2002-2007 term is 27.30%, compared with 30% for the 2004-2009 term. The percentage of People’s Council’s female representatives at the provincial level is 23.88%, compared with the target of 28%. The percentage at the district level is 23.01%, compared with the target of 25%. However, at the commune level, the percentage is 19.53%, which is above the target of 18%.

 

The number of female cadres participating in the People’s Council has also increased at an encouraging rate. Nevertheless, the promotions have only been to deputy positions. The percentage of chairwomen in the People’s Councils is 26.56%, an increase of 18.37% compared with last term. The percentage of chairwomen in the People’s Committees is 4.68%, an increase of 3.04% compared with the last term. Thirty-two of Vietnam's sixty-four provinces have vice-chairwomen in the People’s Committees.

 

However, the percentage of women participating in the Party committees has not increased as desired, and has even decreased at the central level, and has not reached the desired 15% at all levels (See Table 3).

 

6.3 NGO Contributions

 

At present, only a few NGOs concentrate on women’s political participation, yet NGOs have contributed to the promotion of women’s participation in leadership and decision-making. Activities include:

 

Research on female cadres to determine the real situation, the problems and their causes and to provide recommendations to improve the situation and contribute to capacity building for women in the researched areas.

 

Creation of documents aimed at raising leadership skills for women.

 

Training on gender for leaders, both men and women.

 

Training on leadership skills for women

 

Collaborate with the Government's National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW) to study women in leadership and decision-making in Vietnam and paving the way for the construction of the national Strategy and Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women.

 

Training documents for the People’s Council’s and National Assembly’s female candidates. Manual for Women in People's Councils (Hanoi: Women's Publishing House, 1998; revised 2004) has been shared as a model with activists in over thirty countries.

 

Participation in and provision of recommendations to workshops gender equality in politics organized by NCFAW, the Women’s Union, and the Committee on Social Issues of the National Assembly.

 

Although few Vietnamese NGOs and INGOs working in Vietnam participate directly in projects on women’s political participation, they do contribute positively to the empowerment of women in the fields such as job and income generation, science and technology transfer, health care for women, prevention of domestic violence and trafficking, etc. These projects have brought huge benefits for women by raising social awareness about the roles of women and by building capacity and empowerment for women as well as providing opportunities for them to gain experience in decision making and leadership.

 

6.4 Obstacles and Causes

 

Following are obstacles to the participation of women in leadership:

 

The patriarchic thinking that exists in families and in the wider society is the root cause for the shortcoming of women’s participation in leadership.

 

Patriarchy has reigned over the society for several thousand years. Confucianism has deep roots in the people’s behavior for hundreds of years. These are the factors that lead to thinking that supports the view of women’s inferiority. Although there have been positive changes about women’s roles and social status, many people, including a number of women, still hold to a thinking that men should seize power and leadership.

 

Patriarchic thinking also influences personnel mechanism. As mentioned above, the personnel and promotion bodies from the central to local levels are mainly controlled by men. The unequal, biased point of view without a gender-balanced approach has led to various shortcomings in providing education, training and promotion for women to leadership positions.

 

The traditional gender role of women in term of their responsibilities in the family is the barrier to their participation in politics.

 

Although men have begun to share housework with women (mostly in the urban areas), it is women who have to take care of almost all work of the family. This situation leads to the fact that women have little time to educate themselves, have little access to the society at large and to information and have little time to participate in social activities.

 

Being lost in family work on one hand and influenced by the common thinking that men should take over social activities on the other and including the fact that many families are still very poor, creates the situation where a large percentage of women (especially in the rural areas) feel inferior and do not want to participate in leadership.

 

Women are held back by a lack of responsibility and commitment from male leader at all levels and a lack of detailed regulations by the government regarding the education, human development, and promotion policies for women. In addition, women sometimes suffer from unjust and subjective assessments.

 

6.5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

Women’s equal rights in politics has been specified in Vietnam's Constitution from 1946 to the 1992 Constitution as follows “All Vietnamese citizens have equal rights in politics, economics, culture, society and family.” (Article 63, 1992 Constitution).

 

In 1980, the Vietnamese government signed the Convention on Eradication of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW). Furthermore, the Party continued to launch resolutions and directives to promote women’s participation in leadership, such as:

 

Resolution 04-NG/TW dated 12 July 1993 by the Politburo on the renewal and enhancement of mobilization of women in the new situation.

 

Directive 37-CT/TW dated 16 May 1994 by the Central Committee Secretariat on “The tasks related to female cadres in the new situation,” which has pointed out that “… it is needed to build up more female cadres at all levels from the grassroots to the central…”

 

Together with the active role of NCFAW and the Women’s Union at all levels, these documents have helped institutionalize the vision and guidance of the Party and Government to favor the participation of women in decision making and leadership.

 

In terms of subjective viewpoint, over the years, the female labor force has increase in quality and quantity. They are competent to participate in management and leadership once they have had the opportunity to be educated and promoted.

 

However, in the rural areas, the socio-economic situation is less developed than in the urban areas; the livelihoods are still difficult; opportunities to access information and education are limited. Moreover, rural women do not benefit from some of the Government’s welfare policies, such as its maternity policy. Those are the challenges for rural women’s participation in leadership.

 

6.5 Recommendations

 

The Party should soon promulgate a new directive on female cadres with detailed requirements about:

 

The percentage of women participating in leadership in all sectors and levels.

 

An education plan for female cadres.

 

Bringing democracy into full play in planning and considering promotion for female cadres.

 

Responsibilities of the leader in the development of female cadres.

 

The government should launch specific policies to create favorable conditions for women to enjoy more educational and training opportunities, develop their talents, and lessen family burdens.

 

It is needed to establish a women-specific body in every personnel department of all sectors and levels, as well as to build up supervision and monitoring of the implementation of the Plan for the Advance of Women.

 

Improve the operation of the bodies for the advancement of women: recruit more experts and delegate more authority to those bodies.

 

Advocate in order to raise gender awareness in terms of women’s participation in decision making and leadership for leaders within the society and especially for women.

 

Increase the percentage of women in the Government offices and bodies, especially those involved in projecting strategic development from central to local levels, as well as those have strong voices in decision making about personnel, educational policies…

 

7. Mechanisms for the advancement of women

 

7.1 General Situation

 

In 1993, the National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW) was established on the foundation of the National Committee on Women Decade of Vietnam. NCFAW operates following the mechanism of cross-agency collaboration with other related agencies and organizations, with an aim to provide consultation for the Government about policies regarding women. Its members are from different ministries and organizations.

 

At present, departments for the advancement of women in forty-five ministries and mass organizations and sixty-four cities and provinces have been established and are operating effectively. Some ministries and localities have developed departments for the advancement of women at the grassroots level.

 

The Vietnam Women’s Union, the mass organization that represents and protects women’s legal rights, is one of the members in the mechanism for the advancement of Vietnamese women. The Union was founded in 1930 and has almost twelve million members. Its system covers four levels: central, cities/provinces, districts, communes and has three direct branches (Women's Department of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, Women's Department of the Ministry of Pubic Security, Women's Department of the Ministry of Defense).

 

The network for the promotion of gender equality has been formed in several fields: agriculture, aquaculture, energy, and business. Many research centers on women and gender have been established or improved and encouraged to develop, such as the Center for Science of Female Labor (Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs); the Center for Gender Research and Development (University of Social Sciences); the Center for Research and Education about Women (National University); and the Center for Gender, Family and Environment Research in Development.

 

Since the end of 1999, the cooperation group between the Government agencies and donors have regularly met with an aim to construct a common cooperation framework about gender between the Vietnamese Government and donors. The group includes representatives from NCFAW; the Vietnam Women’s Union; the Ministry of Planning and Investment; the Ministry of Education and Training; the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; the World Bank; UNDP; UNICEF; Asian Development Bank; Oxfam GreatBritain; Canadian International Development Agency; and the Netherlands Embassy.

 

7.2 Government Policies and Programs

 

In order to increase the effectiveness of the activities for the advancement of women, the Prime Minister has agreed to issue various documents: Decision 92/2001/QD dated 11 June 2001 on the improvement of the NCFAW; Directive 27/2004/CT-TTg dated 15 July 2004 on the enhancement of the activities for the advancement of women in ministries, Government agencies, and the People’s Committees.

 

To implement those documents, NCFAW has further developed instructions for the mechanism’s operation: Decision 30/2003/QD-UBQG dated 19 March 2003 on the Operations and Regulations of NCFAW; Decision 71/2001/QD-UBQG on the Establishment of the Office of NCFAW; Instruction 156/HD-UBQG dated 26 November 2004 on the Activities for the Advancement of Women. Many other ministries and agencies Ĝ such asthe Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs; the Supreme Court, etc. Ĝ have also issued their own instructions to increase the activities for the advancement of women. Some agencies Ĝ such as: Ministry of Justice, Ho Chi Minh City, Long An Province, etc. Ĝ include activities for the advancement of women in their annual reward criteria.

 

With a view to boost gender integration in laws, policies and national programs of action, in 1995, the Government launched the Development Strategy for the Advancement of Vietnamese Women to the year 2000, and in 1997 the Prime Minister approved the National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Vietnamese Women to the year 2000. In 2002, the Prime Minister approved the National Strategy for the Advancement of Vietnamese Women to the year 2010. In order to concretize the implementation of the Strategy in the first phase, the National Committee formulated the Plan of Action for the Advancement of Vietnamese Women to the year 2005.

 

With the Strategy and Plan of Action adopted, the National Committee for the Advancement of Women proactively guided the communication with and instructions for the system of committees for the advancement of women in ministries, sectors, and localities to build their respective plans of action for the advancement of women.

 

Many programs of action advocating equality and the development of women have been conducted by the National Committee and other committees for the advancement of women in ministries, sectors, provinces/cities. Since 1995, the National Committee has held two national conferences for the evaluation of the implementation of the Plan of Action. These were the national conference reviewing the Plan of Action to the Year 2000, and the mid-term conference for the evaluation of the implementation of the Plan of Action to the Year 2005, in November 2000 and July 2004 respectively. Every year, the National Committee sends teams to provinces/cities and ministries/sectors to inspect activities conducted for the advancement of women and to evaluate the implementation of the Plan of Action therein; organizes training workshops for trainers on gender, training classes on gender knowledge and skills concerning gender analysis for hundreds of cadres in different levels and sectors.

 

The Strategy for the advancement of women to the year 2010 defined gender integration in public policy as one of the major solutions for its realization. Since 2000, the approach of gender integration has been studied and applied on the step-by-step basis to stages of the decision-making process. For the first time, the National Committee prepared and published its Guidelines for Gender Integration in Making and Implementing Policy. Besides the curriculum on gender integration, 150 trainers have been trained for spreading the knowledge and skills concerning gender integration. Counting the training program organized by the National Committee in 2002 and 2003 alone, 2,855 cadres in the leadership of agencies at the central level and of provinces and cities were trained on gender integration.

 

Thanks to that, gender responsibility of sectors and levels has improved. The gender issue is extensively indicated in documents and policies of the Government, sectors, and levels. It should be mentioned that the Comprehensive Strategy for Growth, Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction was adopted by the Prime Minister in 2002. Advancing in vanguard in the gender integration, in 2003, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development completely built its Strategy for Gender Integration in Agriculture and Rural Development, which is being deployed.

 

In order to institutionalize the role of the Vietnam Women’s Union's participation in State governance, to institutionalize the cooperative relations and coordination between authorities and Women’s Unions at all levels, in 1988, the Council of Ministers (which is now the Government) issued the Decision 163/HDBT, which was amended in 2003 as the Decree 19 ND/CP of the Government, providing the responsibility of ministries, ministerial agencies, agencies under the Government, People’s Committee at all levels (or as generally called, the State administrative agencies at all levels) in coordinating with and creating conditions for the Vietnam Women’s Union at all levels to participate in State management activities in accordance with legal provisions concerning the rights and interests of women and children.

 

7.3 NGO Contributions

 

7.3.1The Vietnam Women’s Union

 

Proactively participated in strengthening the machinery for the advancement of Vietnamese women. Women’s Unions from the central to grassroots levels are members of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW) and the Committee for the Advancement of Women (CAW) at all levels;

 

Played an active role in building, realizing, and monitoring the goals concerning the advancement of women, which are set forth in the national strategies and national plans of action for the advancement of women;

 

Organized training workshops, in coordination with the NCFAW and CFAW at all levels, on gender knowledge for policy-makers, rapporteurs, communication workers of Women’s Unions and the community.

 

Put central emphasis on building and consolidating Women’s Unions, particularly Women’s Unions at the local level, to become more simplified and effective; formulated operational rules for Women’s Unions at all levels, especially after the congresses of Women’s Unions; placed importance on the personnel planning work, as well as on upgrading qualifications and capacity of the staff of Women’s Unions at all levels.

 

Developed and multiplied models drawing the admission of new members with a motto “Wherever women are, Women’s Unions are established.”

 

 

7.3.2 Other Vietnamese NGOs

Brought into play their role in providing consultancy, doing research, and evaluating the formulation and implementation of strategies and programs of action for the advancement of women; played a crucial role in monitoring and reflecting on the enforcement of the State’s policies on gender equality.

Developed institutions and research centers in the fields of gender equality, contributing to making the machinery for the advancement of women in Vietnam stronger.

 

Mobilized the mass population and the people to give comments; at the same time, worked to advance the Government and the State’s management agencies in lifting up gender issues in all fields.

 

7.4 Obstacles and Causes

 

The ability to watch, supervise, and monitorthe enforcement of laws and policies of the State relating to women by ministries, sectors, provinces/cities under the central level are rather limited.

 

Formalism and less effectiveness are reflected in activities of CAW in various places, particularly at provincial/municipal levels. This is partly attributed to the regularized involvement of CAW members, who have insufficient time for the advancement of women work, in ministries/sectors and localities. Not a few individuals/units consider activities for the advancement of women are essential undertakings of Women’s Unions and boards for women’s work.

 

Operational capability of Women’s Unions at certain levels is still limited, leaving no positive influence on building and supervising the enforcement of policies towards women and children.

 

The coordination among NGOs themselves or between these NGOs and the Government in order to jointly tackle gender issues is limited.

 

Policy-makers are not fully aware of integrating gender issues in certain fields; there remains a lack of experts in gender integration. The separation of gender-based statistics is constrained, breeding obstacles for analyzing, assessing the situation, and formulating policies, and plans of action concerning gender equality. Communication work in an attempt to change and improve awareness on gender remains restricted.

 

Resources exclusively spared for the implementation of gender policies are limited. Still, the Ministry of Finance promulgated documents guiding the revenue and expenditure for activities relating to the advancement of women, but concrete funding levels spent for these activities are not yet specified. Therefore, the funding for the above activities is more or less subjected to financial resources and attention given by ministries/sectors/localities. (This is according to Mid-term Report on the Assessment of the Implementation of the Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women up to 2005 – NCFAW)

 

Opportunities and Potentials

 

The system of policies promulgated by the Government, as well as regulations issued by ministries, departments, and sectors establishes a strong legal basis for the development of the machinery for the advancement of women and activities of Women’s Unions.

 

The Fourth Session of the Eleventh Legislature of the National Assembly, which was held in November 2003, entrusted the Vietnam Women’s Union as the principal organ in charge of drafting the Law on Gender Equality. This is a good opportunity to translate gender equality issues into legal norms of the State, speeding the process of gender equality in Vietnam.

 

Vietnam continues to develop diplomatic relations with countries around the world. This is another favorable condition for the machinery for the advancement of women in expanding international relations and cooperation, which in turn will contribute to improving the effectiveness of activities for the advancement of women.

 

The General Statistics Office (GSO) in collaboration with ministries and sectors is developing a new National Development Index (NDI), which is to be submitted to the Prime Minister for his approval. The draft NDI Ĝ which is being distributed for comments/outputs from ministries, sectors, mass organizations, and localities Ĝ contains various gender-based statistics. This is very helpful for analyzing and evaluating gender equality in different aspects of the society.

 

7.6 Recommendations

 

The Government should regularly strengthen the national machinery for the advancement of women, with increased and full participation of all levels and sectors, thus promoting gender integration in policy making in all fields.

 

The Government should increase the supervision and monitoring of activities for the advancement of women.

 

The Government should have policies to encourage and support the development of non-governmental organizations and research institutions with activities relating to gender issues.

 

The Government should institutionalize the gender integration work, raise responsibility of ministries/sectors at the central level, and local authorities in their activities for the advancement of women.

 

The Government should have policies to provide funds concretely and appropriately for activities for the advancement of women.

 

Vietnam Women’s Union should continuously build and develop Women’s Unions at all levels and regularly renew the means and content of its activities in order to bring together all classes of women. It is necessary to develop strongly the quality of the contingent of staff of the Union, creating a firm foundation for activities for the equality and progress of women.

 

The Government, non-governmental organizations, centers, and specialists doing research on gender should seek and undertake measures to link and coordinate with each other relating to gender issues, creating a strong, synchronic and durable network, and thus improve the effectiveness of activities for the advancement of women.

 

The Government and others should exert a strong influence on resources from all levels and sectors to obtain gender-based statistics.

 

8. Human Rights of women

 

8.1 General Situation

 

In Vietnam, since 1945, the laws and Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (which is now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam) have provided equally for men and women, who are entitled to enjoy citizen’s rights and other fundamental rights.

 

Under feudalism, the authorities in comply with the Confucianism and Taoism, laws, customs and practices imposed a strict order on women in the two living environments, the family and society. Both the Code of Hong Duc (promulgated in 1483) and the Code of Gia Long (promulgated in 1815) deprived almost all human rights from the women. The two Codes recognized and protected the patriarchal family system, which was characterized by polygamy. A woman had to be loyal to one husband, while he could have as many wives as possible. If a woman betrayed her husband, she would be killed, battered, or maltreated. All women had to follow the “Rule of Three:” A woman follows the father at home. once she marries, she must follow her husband. If the husband dies, she must follow her son(s). This described the fate of a women, who were dependent completely and for life on men.

 

The four attributes (industry, appearance, speech, and behavior) were standards for a woman required by Taoism. Women had to strive for these attributes, which they were not allowed to break or oppose. Women were not permitted to participate in social activities and go to schools or take examinations, and they had no social status. They only worked at home. If they committed the same crime as men, they would receive very severe punishment, even the death penalty, while men received only light punishments. In case of divorce, women were forced to leave the husband’s family empty-handed and had no right to raise her children or even to meet them again. These cultural assumptions remained until the revolutionary period of Vietnam's history.

 

In the midst of such circumstances, the Communist Party held up the banner advocating the emancipation of women. This was very attractive to women and progressive people. The essential human rights of women were acknowledged and implemented following the victory of the August Revolution in 1945. The first Constitution of the revolutionary State provided for the termination of the hierarchy, eradication of strict customs and practices on women such as polygamy, early marriage, and battering and tyrannizing the wife; recognized the citizen’s rights, the right to schooling, freedom of love, and the right to participate in social activities of women; and imposed penalties on those who prevented women from participating in social activities. The policy “Equality for men and women” was implemented in the North after 1954 and implemented nationwide following the victory in 1975.

 

In reality, the implementation of human rights for women is attributed to efforts exerted by both the State and people. Being aware that in the condition of a poor country, economic development will be the basis for the development of human rights of all people in general and of women in particular, the Vietnamese people have placed emphasis on economic development, creating the momentum for social and cultural development. Since 1986, the economic renewal policy has brought in tremendous changes in all fields of social life, and has witnessed new dynamism in production.

 

Achievements recorded by Vietnam have been recognized through indicators of GDP and GNP. Vietnam now is the second largest rice exporter in the world, more than 90 percent of the population are literate, 100 percent of the children have completed primary education, the infant mortality is 34 per 1000, and 98 percent get adequately vaccinated.

 

Women are involved in almost all fields of production and services. They are entitled to develop an independent economy and have their status in society and family upgraded. Women account for more than 49 percent of the labor force, of which: over 70 percent in the textiles, 60 percent in the food and foodstuff processing, 60 percent in health care, and 70 percent in primary education. Women make up 53.3 percent in the agricultural sector, with nearly 10 million farmer households and 27 million working people, while in the industrial sector, that is 45 percent. The rate of women present in the decision-making level is increasing both in quantity and quality.

 

For instance, the number of female deputies was increased by 26.22 percent (that is 118/450) and 30 percent in the 10th (1997 – 2002) and 11th (2003 – 2008) Legislatures of the National Assembly respectively. The rate of women elected in the People’s Council at all levels was 12 percent in the 1989– 1992 term, but that is now more than 22 percent. Vietnam ranks in the second in the Asia – Pacific region and the ninth among 135 member countries of the World Union of Parliaments for its high rate of female deputies.

 

Science work is one of the key fields of the national economy and is also considered a difficult area for women. During the feudal and colonial periods, women were hardly found participating in this field. However, for the last approximately fifty years, the contingent of female intellectuals in sciences in Vietnam has increased both in quantity and quality. Counted up-to-present, the number of female cadres of the total number of cadres with college and university levels and above takes up 37 percent (in comparison with men), of which 132 are professors and associate professors (accounting for 6.7 percent), 1,635 are doctors of science (accounting for 19.9 percent).

 

The awareness of the leadership and of the people in terms of human rights of women is improving. The term “gender equality” and its basic contents are being studied and realized by the leadership at all levels, from the central to local. Different and effective measures through the media and in practice have been undertaken by the mass population in response to violations of human rights of women. Researchers, social activists, and journalists have made positive contributions to this matter.

 

International cooperation in the field of gender equality is continuously expanding. Many symposia, training workshops, and surveys have been conducted in numerous localities and the capital. The year-on-year gender equality indicator of Vietnam remains higher than that of some countries, which have more well-off economic conditions. (See reports on human development by the United Nations Development Program from 1995 to the present).

 

8.2 Government Policies and Programs

 

Gender equality at the time being remains a big goal set forth by the Government of Vietnam. This is not only a faithful and effective continuance to the initial goals of the Vietnam's revolution but also complies with the idea of civilization and sustainable development prevailing in the world today. This is not only demonstrated by documents and laws, but also through the social life. Vietnam, in comparison with many other countries, has a rather comprehensive legal system with more than fifty-two laws and codes, over 120 ordinances and more than 850 legal documents promulgated by the Government, the Prime Minister, etc. relating to women and gender issues.

 

The State has ratified and acceded to thirteen international instruments on human rights. Progressive policies concerning gender are reflected in numerous laws and codes, such as the Law on Marriage and Family (adopted in 1959 and amended in 1986), the Constitutions in 1946, 1959, 1980 and 1992, the Law on Nationality, the Labor Code, the Law on Inheritance, the Penal Code, etc. Men and women enjoy the equal right to nomination and election and the right to obtain the same opportunity in education and advancement. In public offices, men and women are equal in employment, working conditions, and salary.

 

The State recognizes and protects the policy of one wife and one husband, equality between men and women in building and safeguarding the family’s happiness, the right to inheritance, and the right to bringing up children and property after divorce. Still, the State provides some special policies for women, deriving from their gender functions, such as: women may not be employed for heavy and hazardous work, including work in mines, on stands at high altitude, or with hazardous chemicals; women, who are wage-earners in the public sector, are entitled to leave for four months to deliver and bring up children; public kindergartens are established in urban and rural areas.

 

Vietnam is also one of the countries that early ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This is attributed to two reasons: Provisions of the Convention are in compliance with policies of the Government of Vietnam, and Vietnam is able to enforce the Convention. It is expected that Vietnam will soon adopt its law on gender equality. Following the Beijing Conference, the platform of the Conference and CEDAW have been widely disseminated and implemented on the step-by-step basis at both the central and local levels in Vietnam. Along with the adoption of the Statute of grassroots democracy, Vietnam steadily raises the subjectivity and creativeness of the people in participating in programs and projects for national development (the people are informed, discuss, work, and supervise). In such circumstances, women are also encouraged to participate in development projects in localities.

 

8.3 NGO Contributions

 

In the past, only the State and Women’s Unions were concerned about human rights of women, but since 1986 up-to-present (the renewal period) many domestic and international NGOs have worked in this area. Programs against domestic violence and ones combating the trafficking of women and children have been carried out in various localities by the Research Center for Gender and Development; the Institute for Youth Studies; the Research Center for Gender, Family, Environment in Development; Center for Women and Family Health; UNFPA; IOM; ILO; UNIAP; Save the Children UK, and Oxfam Quebec, etc.

 

Since 2000, in many localities, the NCFAW and the Vietnam Women’s Union, in collaboration with NGOs, have carried out campaigns calling the people to cast their votes for female candidates, have created conditions for female candidates to contact with voters, and have held training workshops for female candidates. These activities have increased the quantity and quality of women in the leadership and have created a better atmosphere of gender equality.

 

A program for capacity building was jointly carried out by a district Women’s Union of Quang Binh Province and the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) in 2002 – 2003; NCFAW implemented a project to support female candidates to the National Assembly in 2002; ActionAid had a project for female candidates to the People’s Council at all levels in 2004; the Research Center for Gender and Development organized the project “Women in Municipal Authorities;” the Center for Supporting Education and Capacity Improvement of Women set up the project “Improving Capacity of Women in Leadership.”

 

Scientific research on gender done by NGOs has produced new recommendations concerning women and gender. This is the basis for authorities to set forth policies and laws on gender and relating to gender. Gender has been put in curricula of universities. Communication in order to raise the community’s awareness on gender issues is another activity carried out by NGOs in an attempt to protect the rights of women. It is done through training workshops, publication, document translation, leaflet printing, manuals production, posters for propagandizing and disseminating the content of CEDAW and Vietnamese legislation.

 

Some domestic NGOs, however, are facing difficulties due to limited experience, finance, techniques, personnel and an inadequate legal framework provided by the State for activities of these organizations.

 

8.4 Obstacles and Causes

 

There are such advantages, but it does not mean the road leading to equality for Vietnamese women is shorter and simpler than that of other countries. This is because Vietnam has to face the remains of the thousand-year hierarchy and poverty. The system for law enforcement in Vietnam remains cumbersome. In the market economy, the difference in living conditions and incomes between social groups and between urban and rural areas is posing intricate social and economic problems, such as emigration from rural to urban areas, hunger and poverty, rapid population growth, high cost of health and educational services, etc.

 

One of the big disadvantages for women entering the market economy is employment. At the moment, the national unemployment rate is 7.4 percent, of which women make up more than half. It is very difficult for women to compete with men. Fear of unemployment causes many women to accept heavy work, low salaries, unsafe working conditions, and sexual harassment by their employers or male co-workers. Still, some women have to do whatever they can to earn a living, even being prostitutes and drug traffickers.

 

Employment time and intensity is now too high for Vietnamese women. According to statistics, women work for 16 or 18 hours per day, while men work only 8 or 10 hours per day. As a result, women have no time or meager time for rest, studying, and cultural enjoyment. Women also belong to a social group that receives less social welfare and towards whom fewer policies are directed.

 

The idea of “superiority of men and inferiority of women’” remains in many localities, affecting the implementation of human rights for women. Legal understanding, particularly of the rights of women is still limited. Many people discredit women in leadership. The right to give birth and reproductive heath of women is not yet efficient. Women remain the main implementers of the family-planning programs, yet men hardly share in that responsibility.

 

The number of women facing risks in pregnancy and child birth, malnutrition, and diseases and infection among children is relatively high. Women, especially girl children in rural areas, are the persons most suffering disadvantages in education. Women are also the most miserable victims facing tremendous, intricate social problems, which include violence against women, social and domestic violence, rape, sexual exploitation and coercion, women trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation, drug abuse, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

 

8.5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

The State’s policies advocate gender equality, and modern Vietnamese tradition respect women.

 

Women are dynamic and creative in employment; they are intelligent and thirsty for knowledge.

 

Awareness of the society (men and women) on gender equality is increasing.

 

Vietnam enjoys the support and cooperation of international organizations

 

Scientific research on gender is in process.

 

Activities of non-governmental organizations are increasingly diversified and effective.

 

8.6 Recommendations

 

The State should create conditions for NGOs to participate in building laws and policies, especially the Law on Gender Equality.

 

The regime for law implementation concerning gender should be established and strengthened to boost the implementation of gender integration in policies for development in localities and to strengthen supervision and monitoring of the implementation of the rights of women at central and local levels.

 

The State and others should increase the communication and legal aid for women, helping them understand their rights. A manual on the rights of women, that is easy for women in rural areas to read, should be produced.

All parties should strengthen training on gender issues for the leadership and people at the central and local levels.

 

NGOs and other organs should give advice to the State and responsible agencies in curbing violations of human rights of women and also participate in preventing and combating violence against women and trafficking in women and children.

 

9. WOMEN AND MEDIA

 

9.1 General Situation

 

During the last ten years, along with the strong development of the economy and scientific techniques, the Vietnamese Government has made great efforts in the development and management of media so that the media has become a special, important social institution, which strongly affects the advancement of women for stability, sustainability, and the development of the society. Following are some achievements:

 

Development of the Media

 

Currently, the country has 490 press companies, 177 newspapers, and 313 magazines[58][58] which produce 645 publications. During 1995, the total number of newspapers and magazines the country was 433,200,000 copies, including 19,000,000 copies cultural publications; in 2003, these figures were 653,400,000 copies and 28,054,000 respectively.[59][59] The country has one national television station with three nationwide channels, one national radio station, three regional television stations, sixty-four provincial televisions and radio stations and 606 district television and radio stations, including 288 broadcasting in FM.[60][60]

 

Information technology has developed in Vietnam during the last ten years, has been rapidly applied, and plays an increasingly important role in information and communication activities. There are now many electronic newspapers owned by press agencies such as Vietnam Net, Vietnam News (Tin tuc Viet Nam), etc. Websites run by the Vietnam Women's Union, NCFAW, and the Vietnam Communist Party are new achievements recorded in the area of communication by using information technology that wasn't available in Vietnam ten years ago.

 

During the last ten years, new ways of mass-media communication and direct communication have been applied and rapidly developed. The latter include counseling offices, reconciliation groups, contests, training courses, fora, and conferences with contributions made by thousands of professional and non-professional staff working in the area of communication on gender equality, the prevention of domestic violence, the prevention of trafficking in women and children, and the prevention of social evils in which women are the victims, etc.

 

The last ten years have recognized increased women’s participation in the communication sector, with women actively contributing to communication and education on progressive thinking about gender and the cause for the advancement of women. Women in the cultural and information sector make up 41.7%.[61][61] Gender imbalance in male-female communications has been substantially reduced by increasing women’s participation in this field.

 

According to the statistics by the Ministry of Information and Culture, there are 2,200 female journalists out of 8,700 journalists, with 90% of them holding a degree and 20% of them having a degree in linguistics, 10% of them with degrees in informatics.[62][62] Women working in the communication field have greatly contributed to the cause of women’s emancipation and the advancement of women not only because of their professional talent but also because of their image and their names in the mass media.

 

New Images of Vietnamese Women and Changes in Stereotypes

 

On television, the image of the Vietnamese women anchors and journalists has become strong on VTV1 and VTV3 through their news, political-commentary reports and entertainment programs.[63][63] The image portrayed is of Vietnamese women who are hard-working, energetic, determined, dynamic, and innovative in all areas from family to social affairs, from the role as politician to economist, diplomat, scientist, teacher, farmer and industrial worker. These samples of women have encouraged the spirit of studying, working, and confidence and striving toward a brighter future for Vietnamese women, contributing to the eradication of backward thinking, traditional stereotypes about women, the development of proper awareness on gender equality, and the protection and promotion of women’s rights.

 

In political commentary reports on television, newspapers, and radio, some aspects of current female labor issues including occupational diseases, environmental pollution, female laborers’ rights, female laborers’ role in modern economy and among other things are reflected with the view of protecting laborers’ rights, promoting women’s rights, protecting human rights, and promoting gender equality.

 

The extent that women can access information and express their aspirations through media and information technology has increasingly improved.

 

During the last ten years, the number of televisions, radios, and newspapers programs has increased many times compared with 1995, thus increasing opportunities for women to access information. The electronic newspaper is a new communication form that was introduced during the last ten years and welcomed by the public. The NCFAW’s website had 4,000 visitors during the two years, 2001 and 2002.[64][64]

 

In addition, there has been an increase in the number of women accessing information and expressing their aspirations through other channels such as counseling and communication campaigns calling for more women’s equal access to information.

 

Government Policies and Programs

 

The Government has provided direction for mass media, ministries, sectors, and mass organizations be aware of the viewpoint on gender equality in all activities on information and communication. Commercialization of women’s image on mass media is prohibited.

 

A communication campaign on gender equality was carried out nationwide through mass media in 1997. The Ministry of Information and Culture hosted a round table meeting on the Management Role of the Ministry of Information and Culture Female Staff in the Renovation Period in 2002.

 

The efforts made by the Government of Vietnam are reflected by the increased percentage of women participating in sectors, social activities, and at management levels including the public and private sectors compared with the period before 1995.

 

9.3 NGO Contributions

 

The Vietnam Women's Union has established and often improved the efficiency of its communication network with Women of Vietnam and other newspapers, magazines, and newsletters of the provincial and city Women's Union. The Women Publishing House, which has been in business for over forty years, has published thousands of book titles, including many on the issues of gender equality and the role and status of women in modern society. The Vietnamese Women's Museums in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have a contingent of motivators and speakers who work very effectively. The Vietnam Women's Union has launched many communication campaigns, contests, training courses, and trainings for staff on gender issues to promote the effectiveness of its communication network for the cause of women’s emancipation.

 

Other NGOs in Vietnam such as ActionAid Vietnam, CCFED, CEPEW, the Research Center on Female Labor and Gender, and the Education Center on Population-Health-Environment have either independently carried out or coordinated with each other and with other NGOs having action programs on direct communication or indirect communication in providing education and communication on gender equality. They have launched communication campaigns; provided training on gender and gender quality; implemented projects on the prevention of trafficking in women and children and the prevention of domestic violence...; been involved in printing IEC materials on reproductive health and on improving women’s role in economic development plus materials on gender and the prevention of social evils; opened education and training courses providing knowledge on the topics related to daily life. They have also organized contests on gender equality, using painting, writing, and short dramas held first at grassroots level (in some provinces) and then at the national level.

 

In the last 10 years, NGOs have provided financial, experiences, equipment and coordinated and assisted organizations, government agencies NGOs such as VWU, NCFAW to promote IEC programs to fight all forms of discrimination against women, for the advancement of women, implemented reviews and preparation for the Report for 10-year implementation of Beijing Platform for Action by Vietnam in March 2005.

 

9.4 Obstacles and Causes

 

Obstacles

 

9.4.1.1 Obstacles in the Mass Media

 

There is an existence of abuse and commercialization of women in the images used in media, especially in advertisements. Latest research documents the presentation of women in advertisements on television and in newspapers as a symbol of sexuality or as closely attached to traditional roles with the mind-set of gender inequality. These images are misleading in view of the actual status and role played by Vietnamese women in the new period of renewal.

 

The number of advertisement pages coverer between one-third and two-thirds of pages of daily newspapers and with the frequency and duration of advertisements in programs on VTV1 and VTV3 of between three and ten minutes in between the main programs that air between 6:30 A.M. and 9:30 P.M. Every day, 60% of this total advertisement time in general uses images of women, and 99% of the advertisements for household equipment, food, make-up, etc. uses images of women. These images are negatively presented and gendered biased.[65][65]

 

In contrast to these advertisements is the limited duration and frequency of programs and special topics on women that include gender mainstreaming or dissemination of content preventing all forms of discrimination against women and promoting gender equality. For example, Women and Life is broadcast on Vietnam Television for fifteen minutes eight times/per month).[66][66] The impact and effect of negative images of women in the media is much higher than the communication and building of a balanced and positive image of women.

 

The tendency to reflect a positive image of women with the view of gender equality is not strong enough, wide enough, or frequent enough to promote change in the roots of social awareness about women’s rights, equality between men and women, and the prevention of discrimination against women.

 

9.4.1.2 Obstacles in the Professional Media

 

There is a low rate of women working in media. only sixty-one female journalists are involved in management of press agencies. Of them, nineteen are chief editors or director, and forty-two are deputy-chief editors or deputy-directors.[67][67]

 

The professionals in communications are not adequately equipped with gender knowledge.

 

The communication sector does not receive enough Government supervision on gender communication. There is no communication staff working at all levels to supervise communications on gender equality.

 

9.4.1.3 Obstacles in Accessing Information

 

Women’s access and use of communication is limited.

 

Women spend less time accessing mass media than men do, particularly in rural and remote areas. Women tend to watch television and read books and newspapers more for pleasure than for improvement of understanding and knowledge. Even while watching television, rural women often are doing something else, such as knitting, sewing, or feeding animals.

 

Few urban women access information through new media, such as electronic newspapers and the internet. Therefore, women’s accessing and expressing their aspiration through this form of communication is low.

 

Internet, amusement technology, and information technology are not effectively controlled to prevent websites or programs that project misleading images of women.

 

9.4.2 Causes

 

Activities by mass media are partly commercialized. In addition, there is a lack of specific regulations in information and advertisement, resulting in misleading images of women in the media.

 

The Government of Vietnam has not made a comprehensive and regular plan to use media to promote women’s rights. The majority of the communication activities are focused on the 8th of March (International Women's Day) and the 20th of October (the anniversary of the founding of the Vietnam Women's Union in 1930), leading to the limitation of communication results. one of the reasons is because of limited awareness of some government officials, including officials in the communication sector regarding gender equality and the role of gender equality towards sustainable development in the society.

 

There is a big gap in infrastructure and educational levels between rural and urban areas and between delta and mountainous regions. This makes it difficulty for people, particularly rural and mountainous women, to access and use communication systems.

 

9.5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

Globalization of the economy and of information has brought many opportunities for communication about development of gender equality. The increased development of Vietnam's economy has provided many means of media for all strata of people throughout the country, improving women’s equal access to information. Increasingly developed information technology has created many advantages to provide communication on gender equality and the prevention of all forms of discrimination against women.

 

Women staff members working in the communication sector have increased in quantity and professional knowledge and are more equipped with knowledge on gender equality so that they can become a force actively contributing to the cause of women’s advancement. The development of mass media such as audio-visual equipment in remote and isolated areas is effective in communicating about gender equality.

 

Efforts by the Government of Vietnam and NGOs, increased gender awareness of all strata of people through mass media during the last ten years are the great advantages for the development of communication for the sake of gender equality in coming period.

 

Recommendations

 

The Ministry of Culture and Information should make plans to raise awareness on gender equality and women’s rights for all media staff to ensure the communication on the implementation of CEDAW and Beijing Platform for Action through mass media.

 

The Government should establish an effective mechanism to control the contents, forms, and language used in media publications such as the advertisement of products to ensure a balanced image of women. Particularly, the Government should take drastic measures to control and prevent the websites that contain pornography and stimulate violence that are prevailing on the internet.

 

The Government should issue a policy to facilitate women in the media sector so that women can work effectively and to increase the percentage of women in management of media agencies.

 

The Government should support and further promote the development of media, particularly in remote and isolated areas, to enhance women’s equal opportunities and access to information in those areas.

 

The Government should establish an effective mechanism that further promotes women expressing their aspirations through mass media.

 

The Government should pay attention to developing direct communication forms through mass organizations at the grassroots level by adequately investing in the development of local motivators.

 

10. WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT

 

General Situation

 

In recent years, Vietnam has had many achievements in environmental protection. These include:

 

Regular launches of different forms of education and communication dealing with habits, lifestyles, and public involvement in environment protection. As a result, the general awareness of the public, including women, has clearly improved.

 

The Government of Vietnam has gradually accomplished a legal framework on environmental protection, management, and supervision of the implementation of the Law on Environment and regulations on economic development, which have accompanied environmental protection.

 

The Government of Vietnam has gradually become pro-active in the prevention of pollution and environmental accidents, overcoming environmental deterioration in terms of land, ecological benefits, re-forestation, and forest protection, etc.

 

The Government of Vietnam gradually manages, supervises, and monitors

the exploitation, appropriate usage, and conservation of natural resources, and the protection of bio-diversity and natural preservation.

 

The Government has promoted and diversified investments in environmental protection activities. Resources from the public, socio-political organizations, and NGOs have been mobilized. Particularly, material and spiritual sources have been mobilized from social groups such as women, elderly, youth, and children in environmental protection.

 

The State has strongly promoted management in environmental protection at all levels, from the national to the grassroots level, creating a unified mechanism that is synchronized and works in management and supervision of activities.

 

The Government and NGOs have promoted scientific research and technology on the environment. A series of research projects and studies has been implemented in many areas at national and local levels.

 

The Government and NGOs have promoted education and training of staff and experts, with priority given to women staff in the field of environmental protection.

 

Both the Government and NGOs have promoted international cooperation in environmental protection. The Government has implemented coordinated activities in environmental protection with other countries in the region and the world as well, creating a common force for environmental protection in Vietnam.

 

However, as a part of the international community, Vietnam has been facing numerous challenges in environment protection as it industrializes and modernizes. These include environmental pollution, climate changes, food security, forest fires, etc. With its limited natural resources and population density and uneven population location, Vietnam is confronting not a few difficulties in harmoniously and appropriately dealing with the inter-relation between economic growth and environmental protection.

 

Recent statistics show that the strong and inappropriate exploitation of natural resources have caused negative consequences to the ecological system. Forest destruction has led to soil degradation and floods. Inappropriate control of sea and off-shore resources, river pollutions in urban areas, and industrial parks have negatively affected environment. Many forests have been cut, with the result that the forest area/coverage has narrowed. Sea resources, especially off-shore biological resources are significantly reduced. Mineral, water, and biological resources are not properly used, leading to serious environmental pollution.

 

Statistics show that, in general, key types of land - natural, cultivated, and forested - have been reduced in Vietnam. The main reason is increased population. Land has become urbanized and changed into industrial parks and housing areas. on the other hand, forested land has deteriorated due to outside effects as well as human’s activities.

 

Natural coverage on natural land has decreased, leading to increased land degradation. In the Central Highlands, forest coverage is 23% and its degradation is 60%, while in the mountains and Northern Highlands the forest coverage is 9% and its land degradation is 80%. Agricultural and forest lands are degraded and polluted because of human overuse, the employment of many kinds of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, as well as waste from residential areas, industrial waste and waste from factories and hospitals. These wastes are discharged without pollution controls. They do not biodegrade.

 

The cause of this situation is the limited awareness of the cultural environment by the public, including women. The focus is on the exploitation and use of resources; attention is not paid to protection and development. There is a lack of adequate conditions in terms of infrastructure, techniques, legal conditions, and staff working in the field of environmental protection, which has many complicated requirements in terms of improvement of the environment.

 

Population pressure also promotes and exacerbates environmental problems. The current environmental degradation has created an urgent need for Vietnamese, including women, to focus their efforts on developing and implementing strategies and plans of action for the protection and development of environmental resources. In particular, a basic cultural environment in the society must be built to form a new set of customs and lifestyles in regards to the environment.

 

10. 2 Government Policies and Programs

 

For a long time, the Government and people of Vietnam have paid attention to environmental issues and environmental protection. The 1991 Strategy for National Development affirmed that the people must “strictly follow environmental protection, maintain the ecological balance for present and for tomorrow.”[68][68] Vietnam is one the nations that has actively participated in international environmental protection activities. In its report at the Summit on Environment in Rio de Janeiro, the Government of Vietnam noted: “Priority is given to raise awareness on environment. Focus is taken to produce materials for awareness-raising to meet means and tools for disseminating and raising awareness of the public.”[69][69]

 

At the Conference in Johannesburg in 2002, the Government of Vietnam presented a national report on sustainable development in which eight basic principles on environmental protection and sustainable development were introduced:

 

Scrutiny of human behavior must be at the center of sustainable development.

In the coming ten years, Vietnam should consider economic development as a key task and key means to achieve set objectives.

Environmental protection and improvement are considered as close factors in the process of development.

 

Development is ensured by a balanced response to the needs of recent generations so that it does not disturb the life of coming generations.

 

Science and technology play key roles in development.

 

Sustainable development is a cause for the whole society.

 

Vietnam should extend its international cooperation in national development.

 

There should be close coordination between socio-economic development, environmental protection, and the assurance of national security and social order.

 

The Government of Vietnam has issued its Law on Environment and developed its National Plan of Action on the Environment at the same time, creating synchronized measures for environmental protection and sustainable development.

 

10. 3 NGO Contributions

 

In the field of environmental protection, NGOs have provided consultation to the Government of Vietnam to develop and complete the legal framework and policies and to invest in communication and education in order to raise the awareness of the public, including women, about the environment. In recent years, NGOs’ budget allocation for research and support for environmental protection in Vietnam has increased. INGOs are present in almost all areas working for environmental protection. These include urban areas and industrial zones in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Quang Ninh, Bac Thai and in poor, mountainous, and remote provinces where attention has not been adequately paid. These provinces include Lai Chau, Ha Giang, Yen Bai, Bac Kan, Phu Yen, and An Giang.

 

In addition to economic and technical assistance for environmental protection, NGOs have also been concerned with cultural and social issues relating to the improvement of living conditions, environmental sanitation, and the prevention of pollution because of garbage. They have also helped increase the number of families accessing clean water, have provided training for staff who are working in the field of environment (the majority are women staff), and have provided women with necessary knowledge on protection of the eco-system, improvement of living conditions, and involving women in managing and protecting the environment.

 

As a big force in the society, Vietnamese women have closely coordinated with NGOs in the field of environmental protection. The strategy, Advancement of Women in Vietnam,adopted by the Government of Vietnam in 1995 has a clear objective: “promote women’s role in the management of environmental and natural resources, contributing to the sustainable development and improvement of living conditions.”

 

The Vietnam Women’s Union has actively participated in providing education and communication and in encouraging women in environmental protection. As an active member of the National Steering Committee for Clear Water and Environmental Sanitation, the Vietnam Women’s Union has carried out the following main activities:

 

Directly participated in developing mechanisms, policies, and laws related to the environment, significantly contributed to establishment of a legal framework and the necessary conditions to encourage the public, including women, in environmental protection.

 

Organized and implemented activities in environmental protection. These included organizing and arranging staff and resources to participate in environmental protection, to promote education and communication for women regarding the environment, and to launch campaigns and forms and models of women participating in environmental protection in residential areas, at work places, and in the learning environment.

 

Coordinated activities between the Vietnam Women's Union and local authorities, mass organizations, NGOs, communities, and families in environmental protection. In recent years, the VWU’s network of volunteers and motivators on environmental sanitation and clean water has grown. Every year, especially at the occasion of response to the “Week on Clear Water and Environmental Sanitation,” the VWU at all levels has motivated its members and has provided guidance for women to participate in implementing good environmental sanitation, including attention to garbage and the prevention and eradication of backward and unhygienic practices in public places. In particular, the VWU has encouraged women not to use fresh manure in farming in the north, to stop placing latrines along rivers in the south, and to encourage families to build hygienic sanitary facilities, for example, latrines, bathrooms, and water wells to maintain a good environment and ensure the health of women and the people.

 

The VWU has also carried out projects on safe vegetable growing, programs on safe electricity, energy-saving, and has built many models on clear water, for example, the model to provide loans for women to build water wells, water tanks to collect rain water, water taps for individual families, and a model to provide credit with installment payments for women to buy water-purifying equipment and to form women’s groups for collecting garbage. In addition, VWU has launched many emulation movements to maintain good environmental sanitation and protect natural resources. These movements include, “For a Clean and Clear Environment, Women and the People in Hanoi City Will Not Leave Garbage and Waste in the Streets and in Public Places” in Hanoi, the movement “Clear House, Beautiful Lane,” and the movement “Streets are Self-Managed by Women” in many localities and regions.

 

With such activities, Vietnamese women have actively contributed to achieve results whereby 44% of the total population has access to hygienic sanitary facilities and 50.5% of the total population has access clean water. Women in hilly and mountainous areas have implemented national programs on re-forestation to cover bare hills and protect and improve the eco-environment. Rural women have actively participated in national IPM (Integrated Pest Management) programs, contributing to awareness-raising and behavior change in the use chemicals in farming to produce safe agricultural products.

 

10. 4 Obstacles and Causes

 

Vietnam is a poor country, though in recent years, the Government of Vietnam, local authorities, and mass organizations at all levels have actively participated in environmental protection. In reality, investment in these activities has been limited; therefore, the results have not been appropriate to practical needs. Living conditions and the environment for the strata of people that includes women have improved but have not met the demand of the current situation. Many women in rural, remote, and mountainous areas are living in poverty and unhygienic environmental conditions that adversely affect their health.

 

The mobilization of common forces from communities and the whole society for activities on environmental protection is still limited. There is not closed and synchronized coordination among local authorities, mass organizations, social organizations, NGOs, communities, and families in environmental protection activities. Therefore, resources from the whole society are not tapped for these activities.

 

Although activities in communication and education on environmental issues have been actively and widely implemented in recent years, they were carried out in breadth but are limited in their depth. Therefore, the communication and education only contributed to awareness raising but did not make strong changes in the behavior of people, including women, in terms of the environment. A large percentage of women do not pay adequate attention to this issue.

 

The training and re-training of staff, particularly women staff working in environment field, is limited. Women’s strength and great potential in many practical activities in environmental protection are not promoted, especially women’s involvement in the decision-making process on environment issues.

 

10. 5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

The above achievements have led to new opportunities and potentials in environmental protection in Vietnam. They:

 

Created a national, uniformed legal framework and policies as a legal basis for activities on the environment and environmental protection.

 

Developed an agreed mechanism, gathering strength from the whole society, the state, mass organizations, social organizations, NGOs and INGOs, communities, families, and individuals to participate in environmental activities and protection.

 

Increased staff and people’s awareness, including women, of the environment and environmental protection, creating a new resource for environmental activities and environmental protection.

 

Environment projects have primarily gained results, opening new opportunities for further implementation of activities on the environment and in environmental protection.

 

10. 6 Recommendations

 

Promote education and communication about the environment. Implement a movement of widespread, common education in depth for behavior change. Change contents and forms of communication. Diversify activities in communication and education so that the activities will be more relevant and closer to individual target groups, particularly women.

 

Socialize activities on environmental protection, further involving the strengths of the whole society, local authorities, mass organizations, social organizations, NGOs, communities, families, and individuals, including women, in environmental protection activities. Develop a new mechanism to promote domestic and international resources for activities on environmental protection. Combine improvement of the living environment and health care for women.

 

Build toward and complete a new cultural standard and lifestyle on the environment for the entire people. Celebrate samples of good people and good deeds in the field of environmental protection. Severely judge and punish environmental law violations that detrimentally affect the ecology and living environment of people, including women.

 

Further promote activities of gender mainstreaming in the development of socio-economic policies, including environmental policies, facilitating women’s active participation in activities of environmental protection. Further promote women’s participation in decision-making regarding environmental issues.

 

11. Girl children

 

11.1 General Situation

 

Currently, throughout the country, Vietnamese children regardless of whether they are girls or boys are better off, healthier, and with fewer childhood deaths. This change has come from clean drinking water and improved hygienic conditions for daily living. In addition, the number of children who go to school is higher than before. In terms of literacy, 91% of boy children and 86% of girl children can read, with the result that Vietnam has one of the highest literacy rates in the region.[70][70]

 

Children have more chances to access mass media. Children with special difficulties benefit from social support and are better taken care of by the community. The Party and the State have increased the position of children’s issues in political tasks.[71][71] Furthermore, Vietnam has a progressive legal environment, for the Constitution guarantees equality between men and women.

 

As a result, women and girl children are provided with conditions to promote their potential and increase their status. However, due to different reasons, children in Vietnam generally do not actually enjoy all the rights stipulated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In general, girl children are more disadvantaged than boy children.

 

The percentage of girl children’s enrollment in primary and secondary schools in poor, rural, and ethnic minority areas is low; gender stereotyping exists in school text-books and in the thinking of many teachers: Although Vietnam has a relatively high literacy rate, in 2000, around 10% of children (around one million) did not finish primary level.[72][72] Most of these children live in poor, rural, and ethnic minority areas. By gender, the percentage of boy children who do not go to school is 11%, while this figure is 16% among girl children.

 

There is a big difference in the secondary level. The percentage of girl children who do not go to school is 32% but 20% among boys. Seventy percent of school drop-out children are girls.[73][73] Among ethnic minority children, H'Mong children have very low rate of primary school enrolment at 51.5% for boys and 31.5% for girls.[74][74] Girl children bear the double burden of housework and receive less education than boys. Although primary education in Vietnam is free, currently families have to bear financial burden to pay for learning aids and other items to contribute to the schools.

 

Gender stereotyping exists in school text-books as well as in the thinking of many teachers, who still hold to traditional thinking on the different roles and values of men and women: Girl children should be gentle and sweet/graceful, obedient, hardworking and responsible and should take care of others; meanwhile, boy children should be strong, creative, independent, and a good breadwinner. The thinking of parents and teachers has greatly influenced the maintenance of traditional gender divisions of labor between girls and boys. These have impacted gender discrimination in choosing occupations.

 

Rural children in general and girl children in particular have not participated in decision-making in the family or community in terms of issues related to them: In addition to achievements by the Government of Vietnam in the promotion of children’s participation, the traditional attitudes of the society towards Vietnamese children is hindering the respect of children’s viewpoints in the family and community. Adults do not listen to or respect children’s ideas and are not aware that children have their own rights and that children more or less should have an active role in participating in and making decisions related to themselves as well as to the common cause.

 

Sexually Abused Girl Children

 

The sexual abuse of girl children has become a burning issue in Vietnam with the move toward a market economy. The incidence of child rape among total rapes in 1995 was 30%, but 40% in 1997 and 54% in 2000 (865 cases). Prosecution of cases involving sex with children numbered seventy-nine in 1996 but 233 cases in 2000; prosecution of crimes of lewd and forced sex with children came to eighty-three cases in 1998 but 199 cases in 2000.[75][75]

 

Child Labor Including Girl-Child Labor

 

Vietnamese law prohibits child labor under age fifteen. The number of children involved in economic activities was significantly reduced for both boys and girls (41.1% in 1993 down to 29.3% in 1998). However, studies show that 20% of family incomes came from children’s work.[76][76] Children fifteen to seventeen years old participated at the highest rate in economic activities (62.3%), followed by children between the ages of eleven and fourteen (36.7%), and then by children between the ages of six and ten (7.4%). In general, girl children at age eleven and higher are more involved in economic activities than their male peers. Rural children participate in economic activities much earlier than urban children (33.1% and 8.8% respectively, according to statistics from 1998). Some rural girl children are of school age but have had to leave school early to work as domestic helpers in urban families; to serve in restaurants, hotels, and hairdresser salons; or to work sewing, selling newspapers, picking garbage, begging, etc.[77][77]

 

Street Children

 

The number of street children in 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2001 was 14,596, 19,204,23,000, and 21,016 respectively. These street children tend to come from the provinces of Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Quang Ngai, Thua Thien Hue, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Dong Thap, Dong Nai, Tien Giang, Hanoi City, and Ho Chi Minh City. Although poverty is a main cause, it is not the only reason. The percentage of girl children among street children is increasing year by year, with the percentage in 1995, 1996, and 1999 being 30%, 35%, and 47% respectively. Studies show the reasons for children leaving home include: poor families, parents lacking knowledge of children’s rights, enticement by friends, abandonment, orphaned children without assistance, brutal treatment, and divorced families and conflicted families.

 

Juvenile Delinquents and Children on Drugs

 

The number of juvenile crimes has increased. During the period from 1990 to 1994, on average, about 2,500 teenagers were prosecuted annually; during the period from 1994 to 1998, this figure rose to 4,600. The number of children being sent to reform schools has been increasing yearly from 533 children in 1996 to 1,362 children in 1998 to 1,467 children in 2000.[78][78] Girls make up a small percentage (6% in 1998[79][79]) of juvenile delinquents. According to the statistics in Vietnam, drug use is increasing from 61,696 persons in 1995 to 86,296 in 1998 to 92,617 in 2000. In fact, the number of drug users in Vietnam is much higher at between 120,000 and 130,000 persons. Among drug users, the number of children and youth is increasing, from 39.7% in 1999 to between 65 – 70% in 2000.[80][80] Unfortunately, there are no sex disaggregated data.

 

11.2Government Policies and Programs

 

On 20 February 1990, Vietnam became the first country in the Asia and second in the world to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. After ratification, the Government of Vietnam made numerous efforts to improve related policies to gradually ensure four groups of children’s rights and the CRC's basic principles of no discrimination against children, all for the best benefit of children. Since then, Vietnam has instituted tens of laws and ordinances and hundreds of legal documents related to children’s issues.[81][81]

 

Particularly important documents include: The Law on Protection, Care, and Education of Children (adopted on 12 August 1991); a National Plan of Action for Children for 1991 – 2000 and another for 2001 – 2010; and the Government’s Decree 119/CP issued in 1994 on the establishment of the Vietnam Committee for Care and Protection of Children. on 5 August 2002, this committee was incorporated with the Committee on Population and Family Planning to become the Committee for Population – Family – Children. This Committee has ministerial status. The care and education of children is considered one of the responsibilities of the State, as well as the entire society, and every family.

 

The two National Plans of Action for Children have introduced children’s rights into life, creating conditions for all Vietnamese children to live better and be more respected as little citizens. The State, the people, and families are more aware of the need to pay attention to children’s needs and rights. In addition to the above-mentioned legal documents, after the Beijing Conference, Vietnam undertook the following important activities:

 

On 10 May 2000: Vietnam submitted its second report to the UN Committee for Children’s Rights. The UN Committee for Children’s Rights recognized Vietnam’s efforts to improve its policies related to children. The Committee highly appreciated the existence of the Vietnam Committee for Population – Family – Children, its 140 associations at local levels with clear tasks and a system of inspection and control, and Vietnam’s increasingly international cooperation in the implementation of CRC.

 

December 2000: Vietnam ratified the ILO Convention #182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Form of Child Labor.

 

September 2001: Vietnam ratified the Optional Protocol to CRC on selling children, child prostitution and pornography, and the involvement of children in armed conflicts.

 

In 2001: The Government evaluated its ten-year implementation of the Law on Protection, Care and Education of Children and its ten-year implementation of the first National Plan of Action for Children for 1991 - 2000.[82][82] With the Decision 23/QD-TTg, the Government adopted its second National Plan of Action for Children for 2001 – 2010 to create the best conditions in a full response to children’s basic needs and rights, to prevent and to drive back the risk of child abuse, and to build a safe and healthy environment for Vietnamese children.[83][83]

 

On 21 May 2002, with the note 2685/VPCP-QHQT, the Prime Minister adoptedthe Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy, which had clearly stated measures to be taken to implement gender equality for the advancement of women and children’s rights. It emphasized communication and education for awareness raising and created conditions for the improvement of the status and responsibility of families in child rearing.

 

11.3 NGO Contributions

 

In concert with the Government, the mass organizations such the Youth Union and the Women’s Union and social organizations such as local NGOs and INGOs as well as international organizations in Vietnam have contributed significantly to fostering equality between girl and boy children. However, their activities have not reached throughout the country; rather, they have concentrated their efforts on disadvantaged groups in rural, remote, isolated, and ethnic minority areas.

 

They have completed studies and needs assessments for children; training and IEC materials on gender equality, on the CRC, and on approaches based on the rights and life-skills for adolescents. Their work also includes intervention projects to improve health care for children, promote children’s participation, focus on girl children and on children with special difficulties. They have organized conferences, workshops, seminars, and group meetings to disseminate study findings on children’s issues to concerned governmental agencies. Noticeably, the Alliance of Save the Children and Plan International in Vietnam organized activities whereby children in Vietnam could discuss their concerns and hopes for the future and, together, send their message to the Government of Vietnam in 2002, in time for the special session of the UN Security Council on Children.[84][84]

 

11.4 Obstacles and Causes

 

There is a relatively big gap between laws, policies, and regulations and their enforcement in the case of violations when these are discovered. Violators have not been severely punished.

 

There is limitation in the capacity for supervision and evaluation of the programs at all levels as well as the capacity and approach to the mainstreaming of girl children’s issues in plans of action.

 

Gender bias is deeply rooted in many people’s thinking and is traditionally structured in society. The education sector does not pay enough attention to changing traditional gender roles between girl and boy children. In the society, “A son is preferable to a daughter” still holds due to long lasting cultural customs.

 

Many people do not have knowledge of children’s rights and an approach to children based on rights. The dissemination and communication about the CRC has had trouble reaching remote areas and groups with special difficulties. The development of IEC materials on children’s rights in different ethnic-minority languages for remote and isolated areas has not received enough attention.

 

Poverty is still a hindrance for children's access to higher education. Girl children from poor, rural families have often had to leave school early because their families did not have enough resources to pay for schooling. Poverty is also the main reason leading to the increase in child labor.

 

The explosion of pornographic information and photos and unhealthy websites has negatively affected children, particularly girl children. Trafficking in girl children for prostitution is on the rise as a result of negative effects brought by the market economy and economic integration.

 

11.5 Opportunities and Potentials

 

Vietnam’s Constitution affirms the equality between men and women; The Party and the State have been concerned to complete the legal system and social policies relating to the protection, care for and education of children. Objectives for children’s development are included in socio-economic development plans of the Government, ministries, sectors, and localities. Vietnam has developed “a set of indicators on children’s rights” as a database on children and a strategic framework for supervising the implementation of CRC and national laws related to children.

 

The Government of Vietnam emphasizes and improves effectiveness of international cooperation on issues of children (multilateral, bilateral, regional relations, and relations with NGOs and particularly with UNICEF).

 

The State budget allocation for children is limited, though it has increased from 8.42% in 1991 to 12.21% in 2000 to 14.79% in 2004, and to 15.29% in 2005[85][85]). Besides the state budget for children, there are contributions from sources such as the Fund for Children at national and local levels, from INGOs and local NGOs, oversea Vietnamese, and other donors.

 

11. 6Recommendations

 

The Government should prioritize providing more resources for children, with particular priority given to allocating resources for educational systems in rural, mountainous areas; set a target to increase the number of ethnic minority teachers (especially at the secondary level); encourage teachers from the delta to teach in rural, remote, and mountainous areas; minimize the contributions to be made by poor families for building schools so that poor girl children can have an opportunity to have access to education; promote education for girl children; provide free text-books, note-books, and learning materials for children from poor families.

 

Widely and more effectively disseminate the CRC, particularly to ethnic minority areas. Develop IEC materials, promote mass communication to change the view that men are to be respected but women are to be disregarded; promote the respect of children’s views in families, schools, and communities; eradicate all forms of violence against and maltreatment of children.

 

The Government should more closely coordinate with INGOs and create conditions for mass organizations and local social organizations more actively to participate in dissemination of the CRC and implementation of equality between girl and boy children, for example the promotion of local NGOs’ participation in the National Plan of Action for Children.

 

Continue strengthening strategies and programs at national levels for the prevention of sexual exploitation and trafficking in children; develop partnerships with neighboring countries and actively cooperate with regional networks such as the Global Alliance for Anti-trafficking in Women (GAATW) in Bangkok on the prevention of trafficking in women and children.[86][86]

 

Develop and operate a comprehensive supervision system of child labor including girl children, add and increase penalties in the case of law violations of child labor, and gradually eradicate child labor.

 

Increase preventive educational measures as an alternative to juvenile justice. For juvenile delinquents, the first need is educational measures and persuasion at the community level. Separating children from their families and sending them to juvenile educational centers for detention is a compulsory measure to be taken only when alternative measures cannot be applied.[87][87]

 

Annex

 

Members of the Working Group for the Alternative Report

 

I. Report Writing Group

 

Name

Position/Organization

Nguyen Phuong Minh

Vice President of Vietnam Women’s Union;

Editor - in - Chief of Women Newspaper

Lady Borton

American Writer

Bui Mai Nhuan

Vietnam Disable and Orphan Projection Association

Bui Thi Kim

Director of Center on Supporting Development for Women and Children

Nguyen Thanh Phuong

Center on Supporting Development for Women and Children

Le Thi Quy

PhD. Associate Prof. Director of Center on Gender and Development Studies

To Thuy Quynh

Center on Gender and Development Studies

Nguyen Thi Hoai Duc

PhD. Director of Center on Women’s Health and Family

Nguyen Thi Kim Dung

Center on Women’s Health and Family

Vuong Thi Hanh

PhD. Director of Center on Supporting Women’s Education and Empowerment

Nguyen Thi Khoa

Center on Supporting Women’s Education and Empowerment

Tran Thi Nga

Director of Center on STD/HIV/AIDS Prevention

Pham Huong Thuy

Center on STD/HIV/AIDS Prevention

Vu Le Y Voan

Central Peasant Association

Tran Han Giang

Ph.D. Director of Institute on Family and Gender Studies

Pham Thi Hue

Institute on Family and Gender Studies

Pham Kieu Oanh

Action Aid Vietnam

Nguyen Bich Diep

Center on Research and Support to the Elderly (RECAS)

Dang Canh Khanh

PhD. Associate Prof. Institute on Youth Studies

Nguyen Bich Hoa

Institute of Youth Studies

Hoang Thi Ai Nhien

Member of VWU Presidium, Chief of General Administration Department , VWU

Mai Thi Quang Binh

Deputy Chief of Administration Department, VWU

Pham Thi Huong Giang

General Administration Department of VWU

Nguyen Kim Oanh

General Administration Department of VWU

Pham Hoai Giang

Member of VWU Presidium, Chief of International Relations Department of VWU.

Nguyen Ngoc Anh

International Relations Department of VWU

 

II. Report Editing Group

 

Name

Position/Organization

Le Thi Quy

PhD. Director of Center on Gender and Development Studies

Vuong Thi Hanh

PhD. Director of Center on Supporting Women’s Education and Empowerment

Tran Han Giang

PhD. Director of Institute on Family and Gender Studies

Hoang Thi Ai Nhien

M.A. Chief of General Administration, VWU

Pham Hoai Giang

MDM. Chief of International Relations, VWU

 

III. English translating group

 

Name

Organization

1. Pham Hoai Giang

MDM. Chief of IRD - VWU

2. Tran Bich Thuy

Senior officer, IRD – VWU

3. Nguyen Thi Hoai Linh

M.A Senior officer, IRD - VWU

4. Nguyen Hoai Thu

M.A Vice Director of TYM Fund – VWU

 

IV. English Editing

 

Lady Borton

American Writer/

Pham Hoai Giang

MDM. Chief of International Relations, VWU

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