Director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, Khuat Thu Hong, spoke to Hai quan (Customs) newspaper about gender equality in Viet Nam.
Ensuring a certain ratio of women in the political system has been difficult. What do you think are the reasons for this?
The conception that women are less comparable in mental and physical powers is rooted from the past and is still popular nowadays, even to leaders. It is not only men that think so but also women do not judge themselves properly nor trust other women enough.
The Institute for Social Development Studies did a study on gender inequality in Viet Nam with comparisons between women and men. Most of the answers we received said that women do not have the capacity for leadership that men do. The answers showed a lack of trust of the leadership abilities of women. Most of the surveyed people thought that women should focus on the "vocations" of child-bearing, taking care for children and the family. They said that striving for a career was nonsense for women.
From my own observations, I see that many women are too resigned to their fate, thinking that they do not need to have professional degrees. Many think that having a good husband to rely on is enough.
Those are the social aspects. How about policies regarding this?
In the past years, the Party and the Government have attempted to boost and take care of women's development through a number of legal documents in terms of gender equality and female empowerment.
The Law on Gender Equality which was approved by the National Assembly in 2007 was an important step to implementing gender equality.
Viet Nam has made significant achievements in terms of policies. Not many countries do that, even developed ones.
With all those polices, why haven't we achieved results?
There are a lot of obstacles for a female offical. One problem is weak personnel management in Viet Nam.
Women normally undergo pregnancy and childbirth during their working life. A personnel staff with broad vision and gender sensitivity will know how to discuss with his/her female labourers to have an appropriate plan for work assignments and arrangements.
But often personnel officials do their jobs without regards to the woman's life and don't "co-operate" with women to discuss the plan. I know a lot of organisations use the excuse of "women's vocations" to hinder their advancement.
I can say that the weak personnel management in Viet Nam has wasted a lot of talent and many contributions that women could have made to the development of the country. We have a lot of talented and capable women but because of personnel management, their capabilities have not been promoted.
If we do not recognise the problem and don't take action, the situation will continue without making any change.
What should we do to change the social conception of women and create more opportunities for women?
It will take a long time. Changing the social conception is most difficult as male chauvinism is still strong in current society. There is a dilemma between long-standing culture on one side and laws and policies on the other. The culture that has been there for thousands of years cannot fade away quickly.
Knowledge of gender in Viet Nam is still weak. There is a group of people who are "blind of gender". We should change the concept of gender so that people understand what benefits gender equality can bring. If possible, each leader or personnel staff of an organisation should have basic training in gender equality. A certificate in this training course should be a must to be a leader.
In the end, the most important factor comes from each woman. They have to change their conception first. They should not be afraid of the social preconception that they should sacrifice their own opportunities for development. They should fight for a stable position in society themselves. — VNS