Invest in women - Accelerate progress: UN officials

Vietnam has made strides in women’s empowerment, said Pauline Tamesis, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam and Caroline Nyamayemombe, Representative of UN Women in the country in a joint article entitled “Invest in women: Accelerate progress” on the occasion of the 114th International Women’s Day.
Invest in women: Accelerate progress: UN officials
Pauline Tamesis, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam addresses the Southeast Asian Senior Officials’ Roundtable on Civil Registration, Legal Identity Documentation and the Prevention of Statelessness in Hanoi on October 25, 2023 (Source: VNA)

Le Thi Ha Giang, a young entrepreneur, is working hard to integrate digital skills in her business to keep up with the transforming society. As one of the 60 trainees of the Empower Her Tech Programme by the United Nations Development Programme, she learnt website building, digital design, using generative AI, and other digital skills which will help her grow her business in the future.

Mi has never felt this confident or respected in her life – she is now the main breadwinner in the family, despite having fallen victim to human trafficking. It became possible with the help of the International Organisation on Migration, with support from the UK Government and collaboratively with reintegration partners from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, who provided Mi with three female goats – a source of food and additional income – and facilitated her societal reintegration.

These stories demonstrate that women, given the opportunity, are eager to work hard to change their lives for the better.

According to the UN officials, Vietnam has made strides in women’s empowerment. Legislation, including the Gender Equality Law and special 35% candidate quota for women in the National Assembly, enabled legal and policy environment to drive investments for women’s empowerment. Efforts are showing results with the country climbing 11 places on the latest World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, rising from 83rd to 72nd place out of 146 countries. Vietnam at over 70% female workforce participation rate, counts as one of the highest in the world and, with 30.26% women representation in parliament, Vietnam exceeds the global average of 25.5%.

Nevertheless, like elsewhere in the world, women still face barriers to equal opportunities in education, employment, and access to leadership positions. Ethnic community and disabled women especially stand out. Party bodies and People’s Council include only 6% and 7.3% female ethnic group members respectively, compared to male ethnic cadres at 36.1% and 39.0%. While Vietnam is on a good track at other levels, more work is needed at the commune level where only 22% of women are part of the commune People’s Committees.

"Looking back at the achievements of the past 29 years of implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on women’s empowerment and nearly 40 years since adopting the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women in 1981, we can draw some critical reflections to accelerate progress for women," they said.

Increasing women’s leadership across public and private institutions improves institutional performance. Up to 80% of top businesses with good results and stable operations during COVID-19, listed on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange, were led by females, while only 26.5% of business owners and CEOs in Vietnam are women. Moreover, women’s leadership and participation in key institutions is essential to combat bias and stereotypes and build public trust. By 2030, 70% of the State management agencies are expected to have at least one woman in a leadership role.

Strengthening quality education for women and girls and ensuring equal access to leadership training, career development, and funded programmes, particularly in STEM, is a key to successful digital transformation. The proportion of female graduates completing tertiary education in STEM fields in Việt Nam is 36.5%. Polytechnic University has over 78% male students compared to 22% female students. Since 75% of jobs globally will be related to STEM by 2050, targeting gender equality in STEM education would prevent growing imbalances that may be exacerbated by digital transformation.

While women are hard workers and are as competent as men, they are still paid less than men. Globally, women earn 77 % of what men earn. Gender-responsive social protection systems that ensure equitable access and support for women and girls in poverty are sorely needed. These systems help address income disparities, improve education and health outcomes, and prevent gender-based violence.

"These also promote access to decent work and facilitate the transition from informal to formal employment for women," stated the article.

Innovative financing solutions lift women and girls out of poverty. Ensuring that public resources are allocated and spent to respond to the needs and demands of women and girls will guarantee about 230,000 poor households in rural area with housing support by 2025 – Vietnam has clearly demonstrated this through its National Target Programme on New Rural Development. A compact of innovative financing mechanisms to increase investments on health, education, infrastructure to make social protection services reach those furthest behind will unlock greater economic prosperity for the country.

The United Nations Secretary-General reiterates that “we must invest in programmes to end violence against women, and to drive women’s inclusion and leadership in economies, digital technologies, peacebuilding and climate action.”

Reflecting on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress,’ underscores the importance of empowering and supporting women to drive societal advancement.

"Mi and Le Thi Ha Giang’s stories tell us that the future can and must be brighter," they concluded.

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(Source: VNA)