Illustration by Đàm Minh Chí
It seems like only yesterday we were kicking off a new decade, but life moves fast and now it's almost March, almost time for an important day: International Women's Day on March 8.
Every year ahead of the day, posters go up calling for women to be honoured and music, conferences and many other activities are organised to pay tribute to women and their contribution to society.
But is it enough?
Nguyễn Thị Thanh Huệ, a mother in Hà Nội, believes women deserve more.
“I acknowledge many things we have done recently to raise women’s position, but look at many families, right in the capital city with intellectual members, does equality exist?” says Huệ.
She wonders that in such families, how many men go home immediately after work and share housework with their wives instead of going out with their friends, and how many men know to use a washing machine or feed their babies?
“In rural areas, the issue is even worse,” says Huệ.
Old thinking still exists in society and in women in many areas, especially poor remote ones. This stops women from realising their value and capabilities.
To change this, to promote women, I believe it has to start from each family.
Khuất Thu Hồng, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, says family plays an important role in society, and especially for Vietnamese people as people study and work to help their families.
If each member is satisfied with his/her work, the family grows well and society will be better.
Today's fast-paced life with lots of pressure can exhaust people, and men can have less time to think about their wives, and even ignore sharing their burdens.
There is no common formula for every family, the most important thing is that members are open with each other and share their hopes and opinions.
Nguyễn Duy Hiếu, an engineer in Hà Nội, says despite hard work, he and his father always share housework with their partners.
“It’s the duty of all family members, not only my mother’s and my younger sister’s,” he says.
With more time for themselves, Hiếu’s mother earned a PhD whereas his younger sister is for a master's.
Hiếu believes women can do more, and reach higher achievements with support, but the change must start from each family, from both men and women, he added.
Nguyễn Vân Anh, director of the Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender-Family-Women and Adolescent, says if equality was practised in each family, both men and women would be very happy.
Equality means men and women have equal opportunities for work and study and support each other to develop.
“We hope for a society in which women can decide what they like, what they want to do, not have others tell them what to do,” she said.
Recently, Hoàng Bách, a famous singer told his friends and fans that he had a vasectomy after witnessing his wife experience too much pain in giving birth to their three children.
He explained that he only wanted to share his wife’s burdens in life.
Bách’s action and explanation received much public applause, but loving and respecting women can start from small and simple things, not grand gestures, expensive flowers or presents.
Speaking at a conference about gender equality, former President Nguyễn Thị Doan said empowerment for women meant empowerment for humankind.
I think empowerment doesn't come from men, or society, but only from women. Besides being a wife and a mother, many also have work, be they teachers, lawyers or manual workers, so please continue to be good teachers, good lawyers and good manual workers.
Prove to everyone that being good at work doesn't mean you’re bad at housework, a bad wife or a bad mother.
Changing people’s way of thinking about you will change the way they behave towards you. Other family members will share work and support you. — VNS