AWCH – A bridge connecting women

According to Honorary President of the ASEAN Community Women's Circle of Hanoi (AWCH), spouse of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Vu Thi Bich Ngoc, AWCH since its establishment has entered its 7th anniversary and has always promoted its role to connect Vietnamese women to the world, as well as between ASEAN women and international friends.
She said: “After reading about the history of Chu Dau pottery, I was deeply moved to know that the founder of this craftmanship was a female intellectual – an artist, a businesswoman, a brilliant poet and an excellent navigator. Her life and talents have
Honorary President of AWCH, Spouse of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Vu Thi Bich Ngoc (centre) and international friends experienced painting and decorating on Chu Dau pottery, December 2021.

In your capacity as Honorary President of the ASEAN Community Women's Circle of Ha Noi (AWCH), could you please make an introduction about AWCH?

The ASEAN Community Women's Circle of Ha Noi (AWCH) was established on August 11th 2015. This was initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam on the occasion of the official establishment of the ASEAN Community (December 31st 2015) and 20th anniversary of Viet Nam's accession to ASEAN (July 28th 1995 - July 28th 2015).

AWCH's activities aimed at an overarching goal of creating a bridge between women from ASEAN and ASEAN's partner countries in Viet Nam, thereby further tightening solidarity and friendship among ASEAN members as well as between ASEAN and international partners.

In addition, AWCH also identified specific goals in different aspects. For ASEAN, AWCH’s agenda helped promote ASEAN Community’s image and identity in Viet Nam. For Viet Nam, through AWCH, we shared with international friends the pride of our country, culture and people, and at the same time introduced potentials and opportunities for cooperation and business of Viet Nam’s regions, traditional professions with ASEAN and international friends. At the same time, AWCH also aimed at charity activities, with the desire to make practical support to people with difficulties in Viet Nam, especially women and children.

After seven years of operation, I am very pleased to see the growth of AWCH, reflected in the increase in its membership as well as the ability to connect women nationally and internationally. From a core group of spouses of leaders of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and spouses of Ambassadors of ASEAN countries in Ha Noi, since 2018, the Group has built the "Network of the ASEAN Community Women's Circle of Ha Noi " with 24 expanded members, including a number of domestic women's organizations such as the Viet Nam Women's Union, Viet Nam Women Entrepreneurs Association, Viet Nam Intellectual Women's Association, and the Women's Affairs Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with spouses of Ambassadors and heads of representative missions of 19 countries and international organizations in Viet Nam which are partners of ASEAN.

According to the statement from its establishment "AWCH activities will be a bridge of friendship and cooperation between Vietnamese women and women of ASEAN countries and between ASEAN women and international friends, creating opportunities for women in the region to share information, knowledge, experience, promote gender equality and enhance the role of women in diplomacy", in your views, the Group's activities over the years have met these objectives?

Since its establishment, AWCH has constantly promoted its role as a bridge of friendship and cooperation between Vietnamese women and ASEAN women and between ASEAN women and international friends through various substantive and meaningful activities.

First, exchange activities with rich cultural tradition such as tea parties hosted by spouses of Ambassadors of different countries; Cooking classes for spouses in the Diplomatic Corps instructed by Vietnamese culinary artisans, International Food Festival to raise funds for charity to help poor children and women, building infrastructures, renovating schools in centers for disability or social protection.

Second, events to strengthen ASEAN Community’s cohesion in Viet Nam such as "Diplomatic families in the kitchen","Learn about Viet Nam" and "ASEAN Family Day".

Third, meetings with female leaders of the Party and State, visits to traditional craft villages, women-led or labor-intensive business establishments.

In addition to the very active participation among AWCH members, the Group has welcomed enthusiastic participation of spouses, female officials at Vietnamese embassies and representative mission abroad as well as female officers across various Departments within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In addition, the Group has promoted the role of spouses of newly appointed Vietnamese Ambassadors in promoting and introducing Viet Nam's culture, people, traditional products and goods to international friends. Therefore, it can be said that the Group's operation has helped promote gender equality and enhance the role of women in diplomacy.

In your views, what is the significance of AWCH’s activities in promoting the beauty of the country and people of Viet Nam, especially in the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic?

Introducing the country and people of Viet Nam to international friends is one of AWCH’s core activities. Despite of complex developments of the Covid-19, by promoting the spirit of creativity and flexibility, we have hosted a number of online activities such as international food festivals. At the peak of the pandemic, when localities in Viet Nam were in the fruit-harvesting season, we sent letters and introductory gifts to spouses of foreign Ambassadors in Ha Noi to introduce the beauty of the regions with specialties, potentials and people. These activities still received warm response and applause from international friends.

From an organizational perspective, we always wanted to bring to international friends the most authentic and closest experiences to the characteristics of each place to visit while compliance with our State's regulations on pandemic prevention was ensured.

For example, a visit to Chu Dau Pottery Village (Hai Duong) provided an opportunity for international friends to know more about Chu Dau Pottery’s over 400 years of its establishment, development and restoration and experience painting and decorating on Chu Dau pottery. Or a visit to Bac Giang - a land of natural richness, known as the "fruit capital of the North" with orange, pomelo gardens applying smart agriculture technologies, to enjoy the Kinh Bac Quan ho tune and experience traditional professions such as making rice paper rolls, cooking wine, crafting rattan, bamboo, and knitting.

We were very pleased to learn these visits left a very positive impression in the hearts and minds of international friends and the perception on the country and people of Viet Nam had come from such practical experiences.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc once spoke at the 3rd ASEAN Women Ministers Meeting (October 2018), in which he emphasized that the ASEAN community would not be able to develop sustainably without the important participation of the ASEAN Community’s women and girls. Could you please tell us about the future direction of the Group to connect women of ASEAN countries and people of ASEAN for a united, friendly and cooperative ASEAN Community?

I think, we will continue to maintain the current operating goal, in which more activities will be incorporated such as cultural - educational - sports exchanges; visits to connect Viet Nam’s regions, traditional businesses, women- led businesses with the world as well as charity activities.

On the other hand, in terms of participants, besides AWCH 's own agenda, I hope the Group will be able to encourage more participation of friends from ASEAN partner countries, women in Viet Nam and abroad in different working positions and professions, with a view to jointly promoting the role and contribution of women in society, tightening solidarity and friendship among ASEAN members, as well as between ASEAN and international partners.

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