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Empowering Women in Vietnam
Like in many emerging economies around the world, women in Vietnam form the majority of the working poor, often earning less than men and having fewer high-income opportunities. In Vietnam, many disparities between men and women result from gender-based discrimination and the social acceptance of inequity. These can manifest in educational discrimination and pay discrimination.

Without equal resources and support, young girls lack the necessary skills and acceptance for their futures to move beyond vulnerable positions or “invisible” jobs such as homeworking and street vending. However, many organizations are working to promote equity for women in Vietnam, whether through government lobbying or independent support. Here are three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam.

The Asia Foundation

Working throughout the continent, The Asia Foundation has worked in Vietnam specifically for more than 25 years, partnering with local NGOs and governments to improve women’s livelihoods. This organization seeks to strengthen and improve women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and autonomy. It has advocated for more inclusive political atmospheres and worked to expand women’s rights. To expand women’s economic opportunities, it partnered with the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council to increase women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises.

With funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Asia Foundation facilitated a mobile banking platform aimed toward low-income populations in Vietnam. In 2017, The Asia Foundation provided 333 girls with secondary schooling scholarships, school supplies, books, uniforms and bicycles. Through its expansive and integrated approach to empowering women in Vietnam, The Asia Foundation provides the tools necessary to help create an equitable future for women and girls.

Women’s Empowerment and Voice (WEAV)

This organization is unique among the three as it consists of Vietnamese Americans, including general members and leadership. Members’ work focuses on the improvement and inclusion of impoverished girls and women in a complete education. By providing the opportunities necessary to complete a college education, WEAV enables the potential for higher-paying careers and a wider variety of employment options.

In Vietnam, “[o]nly boys can expect to be educated at the primary and secondary levels,” according to the organization.” As a result, this organization funds scholarships for girls needing financial support to stay in school. Women’s Empowerment and Voice supports more than 100 women attending four different colleges in the Mekong Delta. Since WEAV launched in 2011, it had its first college graduate in 2015.

Additionally, it continues to increase the number of scholarships with each passing year. Its dedication to uplifting women in poverty or in financial need supports women and their families, lifting overwhelming economic burdens. WEAV provides futures by breaking down barriers of discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages to empower women in Vietnam, allowing bright minds to shine.

CARE

In covering a wide variety of circumstances, CARE’s programs in Vietnam work to enhance women’s economic growth and prevent gender-based violence, including workplace sexual assault. Since its work in Vietnam began in 1989, eliminating gender-based discrimination and mapping strategies to eliminate poverty have helped underprivileged communities. A recent program that CARE formed called “Ignite” seeks to boost women-led entrepreneurship in Vietnam, placing these businesses at the forefront of their fields.

Despite the growth in women-owned businesses, numbers remain low and often unseen. Ignite hopes to improve visibility and support entrepreneurs in maintaining businesses. The program seeks to accelerate the growth of 50,000 enterprises and positively impact at least 340,000 entrepreneurs, of which at least 70% would be women. In order to stand against social norms disassociating women from business, CARE provides access to resources and support organizations ready to assist women, allowing for more equitable opportunities both within and outside of the workplace.

Looking Forward

Despite Vietnam’s economic growth and development over recent decades, social norms and financial inequality leave women with fewer opportunities and lower incomes than men. However, these three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam lay the groundwork for effective positive change.

With their support, women can hold more political autonomy and economic power, while other organizations and programs focus on alleviating financial burdens on families to allow girls a comprehensive education. As the Australian government partnered with The Asia Foundation, the United States and other economic powers have the opportunity to reflect such a partnership and increase funding toward poverty elimination and gender equity worldwide.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

women in Asia In Asia, women are affected daily by heightened gender inequality, high instances of gender-based violence and low access to education. To combat these issues, four organizations are working diligently to improve the quality of life for Asian women. The International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP), Women’s Fund Asia, U.N. Women and The Asia Foundation are all respectively working toward helping women in Asia and providing them with the resources necessary to thrive.

IWRAW Asia Pacific

Operating from Malaysia, IWRAW-AP focuses on improving feminism. The organization’s mission is to demobilize establishments that violate women’s rights. To fulfill this goal, IWRAW-AP utilizes policy advocacy, online communications, networking and feminist analysis. These methods advance women’s development across the world, including Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. IWRAW has also recently been conducting work in Africa and Europe, further widening its influence. Thus, the organization’s efforts have been impactful so far.

IWRAW-AP has administered discussions and legal training sessions with lawyers and judges in Asia for more than 300 legal actors. Additionally, IWRAW-AP held technical training sessions on gender equality. These meetings taught the standards for women’s rights organizations based on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other human rights treaties. Through this initiative, IWRAW-AP emphasized three main strategies to enforce equality for women in Asia. By increasing recognition, knowledge of rights and teaching how to apply strategy to advocacy, the CEDAW convention holds immense power. Overall, it has trained 800 women’s rights leaders, helping to improve the lives of women in Asia.

Women’s Fund Asia

Women’s Fund Asia focuses on improving philanthropy grants. Aimed at supporting girls, women, intersex and trans people, the Women’s Fund Asia provides financial aid to fight for those in need. Moreover, the organization offers application-based grants under three programs to support women in Asia. The first is the Strengthening Feminist Movements initiative. This program provides financial assistance to minority groups in Asian countries.

The second program is called Leading from the South, which utilizes resources administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. This program assists women’s rights organizations through financial aid, primarily in South Asia. Lastly, Linking and Learning is a program that operates differently than the first two resources. The organization supplies travel grants and collaborative events grants for advocacy improvement and workshops related to women’s rights in Asia. Women’s Fund Asia has already had immense success. From 2019 to 2020, grants under Strengthening Feminist Movements amounted to $150,054.

UN Women Asia and the Pacific

Thirdly, U.N. Women is a global organization that centers around creating and maintaining gender equality in Asia. Women in Asia benefit through various focus areas, including, but not limited to, increasing leadership and political participation, furthering economic empowerment and ending gender-based violence. Prioritizing national security and promoting humanitarian action are other major goals for U.N. Women.

To tackle all of these initiatives, U.N. Women backs international political negotiations encompassing gender equality. It also supplies financial aid and knowledge to support women in Asia. Examples of these efforts include the intergovernmental forums at the U.N. In the last two years, collecting funds from the public to directly combat the effects of COVID-19 has been a major focus of the organization. This has included providing sanitary products, food and healthcare for impoverished women in South Asia.

The Asia Foundation

Lastly, The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on the development of Asian countries, including the empowerment of women. Through various programs, the foundation makes education, entrepreneurship and employment more accessible to women in Asia. The foundation also works to supply sufficient leadership training and mentorship.

The Asia Foundation garners funds from a network of developmental agencies, corporations and individuals committed to women’s advancement. Some of the major outcomes in 2020 include implementing legal clinics in Afghanistan and a new employment program to improve women’s technological skills in Malaysia. Another success was the registration of 600 new clients to the Asia Foundation’s Women’s Business Center in Mongolia.

The Importance of Women’s Empowerment

In order to alleviate global poverty and promote gender equality in Asian countries, the efforts of these organizations are necessary for creating change. With the empowerment of feminism, more opportunities are available for women in Asia. As more women gain access to education, enter the workforce and learn essential life skills, women can earn higher incomes that will break cycles of poverty. Furthermore, improved healthcare leads to lower rates of maternal and child mortality.

According to the World Bank, these combined elements can help break the cycle of poverty. As nations become educated and empowered, countries become wealthier. As COVID-19 has impacted millions of Asian girls, initiatives and organizations such as IWRAW-AP, Women’s Fund Asia, U.N. Women and The Asia Foundation have the power to end instances of gender-based inequality. Overall, with more recognition and funding, the cycle of poverty comes closer to breaking.

– Riya Sharma
Photo: Flickr

empowering Indonesian womenIndonesian women made significant gains in recent years but there is still more to be accomplished. Women in Indonesia are often well educated but cultural expectations and economic and legal structures still prevent them from entering the workforce. The employment rate for Indonesian women is 55.5% while for their male counterparts it stands at 83.2%. Indonesian women’s economic empowerment needs improvement. Organizations like The Asia Foundation and U.N. Women are supporting empowering Indonesian women in the workplace.

Indonesian Women’s Participation in the Workforce

Women’s participation in the workplace revolves around cultural, structural and legal barriers. Indonesian culture expects women to stay at home to complete domestic and childcare responsibilities. Because of these cultural expectations, women are largely responsible for childcare. This means they cannot achieve their professional goals. If a mother does work, it is usually to only provide a side income for the household.

An analysis from the World Bank revealed that if Indonesia added another public preschool per 1,000 children, the participation of mothers in the workforce would rise 13%. Surprisingly, in Indonesia, more women are currently receiving tertiary education than men. Despite this, most Indonesian women still leave the labor market after marriage even though fertility rates have dropped. Women who work outside of the house after marriage still only participate mostly in informal labor.

Within the informal sector, women lack access to support systems that formal employment has. Despite more women working in the informal sector, the wage gap for women is 50%. In the formal sector, the wage gap for women is lower than in the informal sector but still concerningly high at 30%. Additionally, women often work in the retail, hospitality and apparel sectors. These are vulnerable sectors, meaning women have little job security, which leads to higher unemployment for women.

Lack of Legal Protection

Although Indonesia has progressive maternal rights regulations, other laws often restrict women from achieving economic empowerment. According to the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report, there is no law that prohibits discrimination in access to credit based on gender. Additionally, the report states that daughters and wives do not have equal access to inheriting assets from their parents and husbands. These laws can prevent women from rising out of poverty by making it difficult for women to retain economic assets.

Indonesian Women in the Workplace

Expanding women’s involvement in the workplace is beneficial for Indonesia’s entire economy. Improving Indonesian women’s economic power and standing could potentially lead to large economic growth. By closing gender employment and wage gaps, productivity will increase and economic growth will accelerate. It is reported that if women’s labor participation in Indonesia increased by 25% by 2025, it would generate an extra $62 billion and boost Indonesia’s GDP by almost 3%. Improving women’s economic standing leads to better business performance and a better economy.

Improving Indonesian Women’s Economic Empowerment

The Asia Foundation and WeEmpowerAsia aid Indonesian women in the workplace. The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit that works in 18 Asian countries, including Indonesia, to improve lives across the continent. The Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program in Indonesia partners with local women and organizations to help Indonesian women achieve economic empowerment. It has provided microloans for 42 women’s groups that have more than 1,500 women members. The Asia Foundation and these loans help Indonesian women build confidence in their economic decisions. The Women’s Empowerment Program works by empowering Indonesian women to effectively advance their development and economic success.

WeEmpowerAsia is a U.N. Women’s program that works to increase the number of women in Asia working in the private sector. In Indonesia, WeEmpowerAsia hosts its WeRise workshop. During these workshops, women entrepreneurs and workers learn how to overcome gender-related hurdles. During its first workshop in early December 2020, 41 female entrepreneurs attended. The workshops help women become more confident and assertive in economic situations.

Looking Ahead

Indonesian women face hardships and barriers to employment and economic empowerment because of cultural expectations and structural barriers. Economic empowerment for women is important for Indonesia’s economy because it generates growth. Programs and initiatives are working toward empowering Indonesian women in the workplace to ensure a better and brighter future for them.

Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Cambodia
Women in Cambodia make up over 50% of the population but are still fighting for basic rights and gender equality. Cambodian women are struggling to participate politically, socially and economically because the country’s history and cultural traditions frequently value women less than men. Here is some information about women’s rights in Cambodia.

The State of Women’s Rights in Cambodia

Women’s rights in Cambodia have come a long way in the past years, but the country has not completely abolished gender inequalities. Women in Cambodia still struggle with the wage gap, finding opportunities for higher education, gender-based violence and erasing stigmas and stereotypes. Due to these issues, many NGOs have stepped in to help create change and spread awareness.

The Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

Cambodia emerged as a country from conflict and unequal power dynamics between sexes. Since 1992, Cambodia has slowly been pushing toward improving women’s rights along with empowering women to exercise their rights. Implementing CEDAW into its constitution was the first step to put Cambodia on the right track.

The Cambodian government ratified CEDAW in article 31.1 of its constitution in 1992. CEDAW, also known as the “Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” is an international treaty protecting women from discrimination. It takes precedence over laws in Cambodia and many consider it a “fundamental legal basis for implementation.” The constitution also includes further efforts to end discrimination against women in article 45.1.

NGO-CEDAW

The implementation of CEDAW led to the creation of NGO-CEDAW in 1995. NGO-CEDAW is a nonprofit organization that ensures the implementation of CEDAW by creating a good relationship with the government and training all Cambodian women on CEDAW. The organization persuaded the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to adopt the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims in 2005 and the Anti-tracking law of 2008. NGO-CEDAW also works with the government to “recommend amendments to the domestic violence law.”

The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

Besides NGO-CEDAW, human rights groups like the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) advocate for women’s rights in Cambodia. The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights emerged in 1992 and focuses on two programs; monitoring and protecting, and promotion and advocacy. LICADHO is responsible for investigating human rights violations against women and children by the state, providing medical assistance and social work to victims, monitoring prisons to ensure living stable conditions and providing legal advice and representation to unions and victims. LICADHO also creates public reports about human rights cases to inform the public and educates and informs at-risk youths. LICADO brings reform to a national level by working with other NGOs to influence the government.

The Cambodian Committee for Women (CAMBOW)

One in five women in Cambodian report experiencing physical violence since age 15 and half of those women disclosed that they had never told anyone because they believe “there are conditions that justify violence against women.” The Cambodian Committee for Women (CAMBOW) promotes the protection of women by educating, training, advocating, researching and working with national and regional networks to address serious issues that are common in Cambodia such as domestic violence, rape and human trafficking. CAMBOW emerged in 2000 and is an alliance of 35 NGOs and networks that participate in activities involving ending violence against women and children, raise awareness on women’s rights through popular media campaigns and coordinate the exchange of information between the 35 NGOs.

The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation has worked in Cambodia for decades, focusing on increasing women’s and girl’s rights and security, creating economic opportunities and advancing women’s involvement in politics and everyday decision making. The Foundation has discovered that helping empower women is one of the best ways to eliminate poverty and increase development. The Foundation works with local organizations and community leaders to create positive change and teach women the skills they need to reach their full potential. Specifically, the Foundation has provided 116 scholarships to young women in poor families to go to college, offered 1,800 victims of trafficking legal and social support and trained 778 officials from the Royal Government of Cambodia on the National Minimum Standards for the Protection of the Rights of Victims of Trafficking. The Foundation also creates worldwide networks for female councilors and meets with government representatives to inform them of everyday challenges that women face.

International Women’s Day

On March 8, 2019, five NGOs joined Cambodian women to celebrate International Women’s Day at Olympic Stadium after security forces shut their march down earlier. The Women’s Network for Unity (WNU), Women’s Information Center (WIC), The Cambodian Centre for Human rights (CCHR), Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK) and Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC) encouraged all women to come together to highlight women from all classes, ages and sexualities to share their personal stories. The celebration wanted to show the government that Cambodian women are demanding greater respect and representation; specifically asking for new policies and improved living conditions for all women. On International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020, Cambodian civilizations celebrated by coming together at Democracy Square in Phnom Penh and putting together a fashion show with slogans to promote respect for women’s rights.

Many more NGOs are working to make women’s rights in Cambodia a priority that people respect, uphold and protect. Progress does not occur in one night and as long as these NGOs continue to encourage women to break cultural and social norms, come forward and stand up for themselves, Cambodia as a nation will come to see that men and women are equal.

– Lauren Peacock
Photo: Pixnio

Anti-Poverty in MongoliaTo combat corruption, officials in Ulaanbaatar have given power to citizens in an app. The app is for citizens to vote on public amenities like security cameras or new park spaces. Since Mongolia has seen a rapid boom in its economy, it is still attempting to understand the best ways to engage the public in community efforts. The Mongolian government has decided to use budget participatory measures to help promote anti-poverty. Decentralization is a large focus on the participatory budget so that decisions do not only occur in urban areas. Mongolia has a poverty rate of 28.4%, so it is imperative to work towards decreasing this number.

Public Participation in Mongolia

In 2013, the Mongolian government created a new law titled The Integrated Budget Law. This is the first law in Mongolia that works toward Mongolian residents’ participation in the Local Development Fund. The fund emerged to offer monetary assistance in urban centers and the more rural areas. The fund immediately provided relief by placing 280 street lights in various cities between 2013 and 2015. Despite this, the needs of Mongolian residents vary depending on where they are located. Urban centers long for more street lights while rural areas need more welfare to provide support for stagnating jobs.

The Asia Foundation and Anti-poverty in Mongolia

To gain public participation, the government has partnered with the nonprofit The Asia Foundation and a government organization called The Swiss Agency for Development. The Asia Foundation created an app to vote on public projects in 2014 and working with the Ulaanbaanter Municipal, mapped out entire districts and important amenities in a website called manaikhoroo.

The Asia Foundation is concerned with rural areas receiving the important services they need like job training and loans. The urban centers still have a majority of representation in government, but the focus is turning more towards local khoroos to find what they need the most. The efforts going toward anti-poverty include attempting to give more power to local communities. Another program connected to the participatory budget, named the Urban Governance Project, is working towards giving all residents a scorecard to identify what things they need the most. The government is attempting to provide equal representation for all khorros. The Asia Foundation also worked with another NGO named the GER Community Mapping Center to focus on the subdivisions of Ulaanbaatar, called khoroos, to share the Local Development Fund equally in all areas.

Mongolia has Replicated Brazil’s Anti-poverty Measure

The idea behind participatory budgeting began as an anti-poverty measure in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The Brazilian Worker’s Party introduced the participatory budget as a way to counteract the dictatorship in 1989. The struggle with participatory budgets is keeping the people interested in taking part in determining the budget. As with Porte Alegre, participation has passed through waves of interest and disinterest. The Asia Development fund estimated from a survey of 33 khoroos, only 18% knew about the Local Development Fund.

The app works better in Ulaanbaatar because 90% of people have internet connection in the city. It is more difficult to inform the nomadic people living in Mongolia. Since 40% of the people live in Nomadic tribes, it is difficult for the government to work towards mapping entire areas. Along with this, 60% of the nomadic population has settled into shantytown Gers around the central city of Ulaanbaatar because of drastic weather changes making it difficult to wander as they used to.

How Mongolia Can Improve its Anti-poverty Measures

Through updating the mapping of the Gers and informing the public, the government can provide funding to the areas that need it most. A lot of work is necessary to implement the voting system to all areas in Mongolia, but so far, 800,000 people in Ulaanbaatar have voted using the app. Despite this only accounting for half of the population, 54% of women voted by the app. The Asian Development Bank is working towards providing community meetings to explain to residents how they can involve themselves with the Local Development Fund.

Participatory budget is useful in aiding anti-poverty measures and other cities are picking up on using the same principles as Mongolia. In 2015, Paris introduced a new participation method geared towards citizens suggesting ideas that generated benefits for residents in local communities. Paris government officials partook in a social media campaign and garnered more than one million views on an online platform discussing the most popular ideas. Paris government officials held discussions in community meetings and people could suggest ideas offline as well.

The Mongolia model towards participation budgeting is still new, but as the model gains traction through advocacy and mapping, the government officials in Ulaanbaatar hope to spread the participatory budget system to other places in Mongolia to let residents know that they care about how their money is spent.

– Sarah Litchney
Photo: Pixabay