On Vietnam Women’s Day October 20, let us remember that we still need change in everyday attitude and behavior to help women’s advancement.
From ancient history to the present day, Vietnamese women have occupied varying roles including leading role in the country affairs and development – the Trung sisters, national heroes and much in the heart of every Vietnamese as the symbol of the country fierce independence soul; throughout the Indochina wars and revolutions women have been much involved in many vital functions.
Today, they can be ministers, leading highly successful businesses, lawyers, and women’s rights activists. Actually, women today can be anything they wish to be, so what is holding women back?
One constant throughout Vietnam history is a very deeply entrenched thinking that family affairs are women’s main responsibilities, the characteristics that define women are depressingly stereotyped. Domestic and gender-based violence show no sign of abating. The gender pay gap is a modern day measure of gender inequality.
Today we want to celebrate progress in the legislation that has formalized women’ positive status in society. With women’s high contribution to the country’s economy and prosperity has come an increased freedom of choice in a whole range of social, political and economic opportunities.
Following the Constitution of 1949 that states that ‘women are equal to men in all aspects,’ many progressive laws followed, such as the 1959 Marriage and Family Law further advanced women rights and interests, ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1982), Law on Gender Equality (2006) and the Law on Prevention and Control of Domestic Violence (2007). At present, Oxfam is working with domestic and international partners to extend these commitments to gender equality in the revised Labor Code.
Today also reminds us that we still need a women’s day, where we must continue to make visible that social norms and people’s mindset are the biggest barrier to women’s advancement and thus to the society’s advancement at large. The change in everyday attitude and behavior rests in the action of each citizen, at home and in the workplace.
If I may, I would tell business to be at the competitive edge by promoting gender equality and diversity in your companies inside and outside operations;
Government to resource the implementation of all the good laws and the CEDAW.
Mothers and mothers-in-law to educate your boys and girls to be first and foremost human and equal citizens regardless of biological sex.
Women’s rights groups to take the lead in forming a Vietnamese feminist movement of the 21st century.
And to all women, remember you are born today, tomorrow and every day. As one of my inspirer, Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex (1949), “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman.”
*Babeth Ngoc Han Lefur is Country Director of Oxfam in Vietnam.