UN General Secretary António Guterres released a video message highlighting the need for gender equality in all parts of society on March 8, as the world celebrated the contributions of women. “We need more women environment ministers, business leaders, presidents, and prime ministers,” he said. “They can push countries to address the climate crisis, develop green jobs, and build a more just and sustainable world.”
Most parts of the world know that gender equality is a fundamental human right. But here’s a sadder truth: Some unfortunate regions don’t even know such a right exists. However, whether we belong to the “most parts” or to the “unfortunate ones,” it seems like we all still need a reminder once in a while — why does gender equality matter?
For one, women represent half of the world’s population, which means also half of the global potential. But women don’t get the equivalent power, rights, and access men get. In political leadership, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels. At work, it’s the same narrative. Some are even deprived of access to proper nutrition and health care. Brown, white, or black — women face disparity almost everywhere, almost every time.
In Vietnam, there are 114 male births per 100 female birth. There’s not a big difference in numbers, but the gap between men and women in their social standing is too wide to ignore.
The country adopted the National Strategy on Gender Equality on March 3, 2021, for the 2021-2030 period. The goal is to increase the rate of female employees engaged in paid work to about 60% by 2030. Resolution No. 28/NQ-CP specifically sets out the following objectives:
- By 2025, 60% and by 2030, over 75% of state management agencies and local administration at all levels shall have female leaders
- Increasing the rate of female employees engaged in paid work to 50% by 2025 and to approximately 60% by 2030
- Reducing women’s average hours of housework and domestic care without wage to 1.7 times in 2025 and 1.4 times in 2030 compared to men
The strategy also defines specific goals for the country to also promote gender equality in areas outside the major cities as part of Vietnam’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN.
Still in celebration of International Women’s Month and to gauge the views of the women living in Vietnam, expats and locals alike, we dropped a question on the Facebook group Fexpats - Female Expats and Locals in Ho Chi Minh City: “As a woman living in Vietnam, how do you feel about Vietnam’s progress in terms of gender equality?” Here’s what female expats have to say.
“I don't know about the progress because I've been here only for 5 years but I still sometimes struggle to organize certain services for my house, Natalia shared. “For example, cleaning the AC (air conditioning). Why is that relevant? When my husband steps in, suddenly people are not ghosting him and they immediately have time to come to our place and fix the problem.”
Natalia said it’s the same when she goes to the police for her residence proof. “When I go to the police station to process my documents, the responsible office was always either out or on break or extremely busy.” But when it was her husband who went there, he was able to settle it immediately, with no excuses or delays.
When she mentioned it to her husband, he just said doesn't believe that some men are so backward here. “He just simply couldn't believe that someone would dismiss a person for just being a woman.”
“To me as long as the authorities will say "not enough proof" to a woman showing up to the police station with doctor's reports, wanting to report domestic violence, there will be no progress done,” Maude said, agreeing to the same dilemma Natalia faced.
To her, respect is everything. Maude believes those doing indecent exposure should be locked up. “Being cat-called too often and asked non-stop “Do you have a boyfriend? No? Do you want to date me? Why not? Just a coffee!"
Chi Üyen Nguyen
As for Chi Uyen, “Gender equality is such a broad topic, so I think we need to look at it from different angles.” She expounded on the discussion and shared a few positive actions done by the Vietnamese government and where the authorities should address the lack of information.
“You'd be surprised to learn that Vietnam is actually ranked 2nd amongst Southeast Asia in terms of having the most female business owners and 25th in the world,” she said. “Many women hold senior positions in both business and government offices.”
She continued by saying with a deep root in Confucianism that emphasizes patriarchy, “Vietnam has lots of issues such as domestic abuse, sexual assaults left not taken seriously. Sex education is not widely taught therefore, there's no sexual freedom for women. But I do think Vietnam has achieved certain outcomes over the years when it comes to women's progress.”
Fin initially left a short comment saying, “I think women should not live with husband's parents because they will treat her as their stay-in nanny.”
But Fin followed up and replied to Chi Uyen’s points mentioned above, “I have to agree to the part where Vietnam ranked 2nd amongst SEA in terms of having the most female business owners but under the bureaucracy that men still have more power.”
“I had seen many successful women entrepreneurs but they are struggling to handle family matters because of the pressure to be a good wife and mother,” Fin said. “If women are really holding many prestigious positions then why aren’t we getting support on healthcare/financial/education?”
“I went to the bank to ask for a loan as a single mother struggling with finances because of COVID-19 but I got rejected because I am not married or I don’t own any property that must be under a male household. This really upset me when I knew the manager there also a woman who quietly comply authorities without compassion.”
Fin continued, “You [referring to Chi Uyen] had shown the article based on a statistical point of view. My point is if we continue to strive and thrive in our careers then we are handling other issues, and we win in our own way. If we could establish a system that benefits society at a holistic level then it might only option that society will improve.”
Hồ Thị Thụy Ý
Thuy just left a straightforward opinion, “I don't feel any progress at all. Some cases just for to show in social media but mindset still the same.”
Leigh, the first one to start the conversation pitched in with an article that says “Here’s why Vietnam needs to embrace #MeToo” and said, “I think until they stop treating sexual assault as a minor crime then anything else is just window dressing.”