Digital transformation must ensure gender equality

August 27, 2021 - 09:00
Hà Thị Nga, chairwoman of Vietnam Women Association, recently spoke to the media about ‘Promoting women’s economic empowerment in the future of work and post-pandemic recovery through digital and financial inclusion,’ which is a resolution adopted at the 42nd General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).


Hà Thị Nga, chairwoman of the Vietnam Women Association. Photo

Hà Thị Nga, chairwoman of Vietnam Women Association, recently spoke to the media about ‘Promoting women’s economic empowerment in the future of work and post-pandemic recovery through digital and financial inclusion,’ which is a resolution adopted at the 42nd General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).

AIPA-42 discussed topics such as female empowerment, climate change, cybersecurity and economic integration promotion. Can you share your thoughts on women-related topics in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Việt Nam?

Female empowerment and equality in all fields are important priorities in the ASEAN agenda and are clearly reflected in the goals and targets of the ASEAN Vision 2025.

However, in reality there are still many challenges in closing the gender gap in the region and for member countries in particular. Challenges are even greater in the context of COVID-19 because women and children are the most physically and psychologically vulnerable in the pandemic.

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation process in various fields and created opportunities but also posed a number of difficulties for women due a lack of skills in information technology application and lesser experience working in an international environment. The digital environment and social networks are posing many risks making women and girls more likely to become victims of technological crimes.

I am very pleased that the AIPA-42 General Assembly has prioritised these issues.

I think Vietnamese women have a lot of experience that they can share with other countries in the region.

Over the past two years, Vietnamese women have been united, creative and made specific and effective contributions on all fronts to fight the pandemic, from taking care of patients, protecting public security and order to preparing meals for medical forces and sharing food with people in need and in quarantine areas.

What women’s issues and supportive policies need attention?

Women are more severely affected by the pandemic. Economic difficulties and large-scale social distancing have increased the burden of unpaid work in the family and the pressure of child care due to limited access to public services.

A lot of studies around the world as well as information from Peace House managed by the Vietnam Women Association show that the rate of domestic violence has increased during the social distancing period. Pregnant women, mothers raising babies, and elderly women are also vulnerable and at a higher risk than other groups of having more serious illness when infected with COVID-19.

The disruption of work and the lack of information technology skills will also significantly affect women’s ability to recover their livelihoods after the pandemic.

Women who work at medical facilities, isolation areas and care for people with COVID-19 have to work continuously for many hours in protective suits, making many women encounter difficulties in personal hygiene.

Learning from the experience of some countries in the region, we believe that there should be a mechanism to support women to access information and fully understand the State's support policies.

We should provide information channels suitable to women's habits and conditions; as well as support women's access to information and digital technology to narrow the gender gap in the digital field through programmes such as women’s training in e-commerce and high-tech agriculture.

Could you elaborate on your recommendations on building the digital economy to promote economic recovery after COVID-19, and promoting a more resilient and sustainable economy? How much attention should be paid to help women access the internet and ensure harmony between regions in each country, especially in remote and isolated areas?

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a heavy impact in cultural, economic and social fields, in which the economy was affected the earliest and most heavily.

From a positive perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged countries to engage more in digital transformation in technology, markets and institutions.

As a National Assembly deputy working for a women association, I think that in building the digital economy, besides technological, market and institutional solutions, it is necessary to attach importance to solutions which aim to ensure effective, substantive participation and equal benefits for people.

Firstly, we should diversify communication channels to change public awareness on digital transformation and digital economy. We have to help anyone, no matter what jobs they do, where they live, and what ethnic minority groups they are from, to understand the urgency of digital transformation and the roles of individuals in digital transformation in economic recovery and sustainable economic development.

Therefore, they can take advantages of a country with an advanced technology platform and a high rate of mobile device and internet users.

Secondly, we should organise training programmes on digital transformation to help people adapt to the new operation of the economy.

We should promote the application of digital technology in e-commerce, transform business forms from face-to-face to online, and apply technology in selling products.

In Việt Nam and other countries, there is a gender gap in digital issues, which is mainly caused by gender stereotypes about women's limited ability in catching up with science technology.

Developing the digital economy is a gender-sensitive process. We should consider narrowing the current gender gap a priority to ensure that women and men enjoy equal access to successful outcomes in the digital economy.

Attention should be paid to groups with difficulties in accessing digital technology such as women, people with low education, small-scale producers, and ethnic minority groups in mountainous, remote and isolated areas.

In addition, attention should be paid to ensure that the female workforce is equipped with knowledge and skills to access digital technology and apply it to adapt to practical requirements.

What do you want the AIPA and member parliaments to do to pay more attention to women's empowerment and support them after the pandemic?

In the current context, AIPA member parliaments need to work more closely to support women in dealing with the problems of the pandemic, natural disasters, digital transformation and promote women's creativity.

I have some specific suggestions:

Priority should be given to protecting women from the pandemic, especially disadvantaged women and women on the pandemic frontline.

The assistance can be provided through cooperation mechanisms such as sharing COVID-19 vaccines, policies to support women in accessing information technology and adapting to the digital transformation process.

Countries need to take measures to coordinate and comprehensively support migrant women, women working at industrial zones and businesswomen with employment opportunities, start-ups, income, and family care. At the same time, it is necessary to strengthen coordination to prevent human trafficking and illegal cross-border migration. VNS