The Spanish Ambassador to Việt Nam, Pilar Mendez Jimenez, writes to Việt Nam News in the run-up to the National Day of Spain (October 12).
October is a very special month for the Embassies of Spain; on the 12th we celebrate our National Day. This year, in respect of social distancing measures, we will not hold our traditional reception and will instead have a digital programme to enjoy from home. Now that Việt Nam is starting to assess how to best combine the protection of health with the economic reopening, I would like to focus on two aspects that we are also celebrating and which constitute tools to unlock the full potential for the socio-economic development of all societies.
On October 12, in Spain we celebrate the Day of the Hispanic community, honouring the 585 million people that are part of the Spanish speaking family all over the world. These 21 countries together constitute a global market with a purchase capacity equivalent to 9 per cent of the world's GDP. Concerning the digital economy, the Spanish language is the 2nd most used on social media and the 3rd most used on the internet.
Prospects show that by 2050 the number of Spanish speakers in the world will reach 750 million. This objective data proves that Spanish is an economic tool for 21st-century professionals and companies that wish to integrate their countries into the global economy.
In Việt Nam, this year we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the opening of Aula Cervantes, which helps bring the Spanish language to Vietnamese students at the Hà Nội National University who wish to make use of this economic tool for their careers, becoming a bridge to the growing market of Spanish speakers in the world.
Feminist Foreign Policy Dialogue at the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam in Hà Nội on the 7th October 2021, gathering UNWOMEN and the countries which have adopted this policy. Spain did so in March 2021. Photo courtesy of the Embassy
On the other hand, and particularly since Việt Nam celebrates its Women's Day in October, I would like to underline that October 2021 has also a very special meaning for Spanish women: 90 years ago, on October 1, 1931, a historic debate took place in the Spanish Parliament. At that time in our history, strange as it may seem today, women could be elected but not vote. Clara Campoamor, Victoria Kent and Margarita Nelken had just been elected as the first congresswomen in Spanish history. They were, therefore, elected by men only. Campoamor and Kent discussed in the Spanish Parliament whether the right to vote should or should not be granted to women, the former arguing for it, the latter arguing against it.
Campoamor’s speech convinced the majority of her fellow male deputies, by 161 votes to 121, to support women's right to vote. Since that day, Spanish women have had the right to vote, the right to decide, to choose the life they want for themselves. I am very personally touched by this commemoration: without it, I, as a woman and as the only female Ambassador of Spain in Asia, would most probably not be writing this article to Việt Nam News today.
I have therefore not only professional but also personal reasons to pay tribute to Clara Campoamor, to all the men who elected her as a parliamentarian, and to the 161 men who voted for her cause, even though the only two other women in the parliament voted against her. Far from being discouraged by it, she stood alone and she won. She won a historic battle for all the successive generations of women in Spain. Today, Spain has 43 per cent of women seating in parliament and our government is the most feminine in the EU, with 63.6 per cent of our ministers female (14 women and 8 men).
With this personal, professional and national background in mind, you may very well understand how thrilled I was when last October 7 I shared the stage in an event with my colleagues the Ambassadors of Mexico, France, Sweden and Canada at the prestigious Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam, under the umbrella of UNWomen.
We were honoured to have as opening speaker H.E. Mr Phạm Quang Hiếu, deputy foreign Minister of Việt Nam, at an event in which we shared with future Vietnamese diplomats what it means to have a Feminist Foreign Policy, a characteristic all five countries share. In March 2021, Spain made gender equality an important priority in all fields of our work. I was very much inspired by the high quality of the conversation and to learn that 80 per cent of students of the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam are women. I am confident many of them will soon be female leaders of the Vietnamese people in all fields of work.
In October 2021, while we celebrate National Day of Spain, the worldwide Hispanic community and the women of Spain and Việt Nam, I wish to emphasise that no country can unlock its full potential if it does not equally count on all its population, both men and women. Overcoming global challenges, like the current pandemic, requires this whole potential and for us to join with our partners around the planet in this endeavour.
Both COVID-19 and inequality between women and men are viruses that prevent countries all over the planet from thriving. Together, we can turn these challenges into opportunities for our countries’ socio-economic growth, and meaningful integration into the global economy and the international community, jointly defending the vision of an equitable and egalitarian world. VNS