Women in Vietnam form a significant part of the working poor, often subject to dangerous working conditions and earning less income than men. Organizations advocate for women’s rights in Vietnam so that gender quality can be achieved and women can live empowered lives.
The Lives of Women in Vietnam
Although about 79% of women in Vietnam participate in the workforce, the majority of women have informal employment “as migrant domestic workers, homeworkers, street vendors and in the entertainment industry.” Furthermore, men are not expected to do the same unpaid care work as women. Societal standards assign women a lower status in comparison to men. In the labor market, women are often at a disadvantage due to gender inequality. Women and men do not have equal access to education, resources, skills development opportunities or better job prospects.
Oxfam Advocates for Women’s Rights in Vietnam
Oxfam looks to address the gender gap between men and women in Vietnam with its women’s rights program. The program targets impoverished and marginalized women with the aim of empowering them and enabling them to engage in leadership roles and participate in the decision-making that affects them. Oxfam’s strategies include research, advocacy and education. The organization uses “gender-sensitive design and management tools” to conduct research and analyses that illustrate the scope of gender inequality in the country. Oxfam uses its findings to garner support for women’s rights and positively influence the stance of policymakers with regard to women’s rights. Oxfam’s Women Empowerment Mainstreaming, Advocacy and Networking (WEMAN) framework “goes beyond promoting women’s agency to build understanding between men and women and work with mixed groups to look for consensus and collaboration.”
Another initiative addressing gender discrimination in Vietnam is being led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). The Commission, which had its 21st meeting on December 8, 2020, plans to “fulfill its mandate to achieve protection and empowerment of all women and children in the region.” Speaking to the cause, ACWC chair and Singapore’s ACWC representative for women’s rights, Laura Hwang, says, “Our women and children play indispensable roles in responding to and building back better from the pandemic.”
Hwang explains further that policies, including the ASEAN Recovery Framework for COVID-19, must prioritize the best interests of women and children. The ACWC began in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2010, primarily working to address the trafficking of women and children. The ACWC committed to ensuring that the rights of women and children are fully protected. The focus of the ACWC in Vietnam then extended to women’s involvement in politics, decision-making and democracy. The ACWC also focuses on ensuring quality education for children and ensuring that women have sufficient rights to land and assets in order for women and children to rise out of poverty and progress in life.
The Road Ahead
Deconstructing societal perceptions of women in Vietnam will not happen overnight, but the efforts of organizations seeking to improve women’s rights in Vietnam are already bettering the lives of Vietnamese women. With continued efforts, women’s rights will continue to progress.
– Eliza Kirk