A trailblazing contribution to equality

December 16, 2019 | 09:00
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Vietnam’s efforts to improve gender equality have borne fruit at the recently-concluded 30th SEA Games, held in the Philippines. It is now hoped that this will help the country maintain its impressive progress on the global Human Development Index. Phuong Hao reports.
a trailblazing contribution to equality
The Vietnamese women’s football team won SEA Games gold for the sixth time Photo: VNA
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Successfully defending the title they won two years ago, the Vietnam women’s football team received a rapturous welcome when they returned to the country. Arriving alongside the men’s team, who also emerged victorious, the athletes were greeted at the airport by thousands of fans and later met with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to receive his congratulations. The response came as somewhat of a surprise, as just four months previously the women won the AFF Women’s Championship to little fanfare.

“You have made the country proud by winning this gold medal for the sixth time, while the men’s team also earned it for the first time in 60 years,” PM Phuc said at the meeting.

So far, the total prize fund for the women’s team, comprised of both cash and gifts pledged by various enterprises, stands at nearly VND12 billion ($521,000).

“We have never been paid attention and invested in as much as during these SEA Games,” said team coach Mai Duc Chung at the audience with the PM.

According to Ngo Thi Thu Ha, director of the Center for Education, Promotion, and Empowerment of Women (CEPEW), SEA Games 30 has shown a positive change in society regarding gender equality. “The public required the government and the community to treat the women’s football team equally in terms of both mentality and physicality because the gold medals are equally valid,” Ha said.

a trailblazing contribution to equality
Women in Vietnam are taking part, and being victorious, in more varied sports than ever before

Women’s contribution

At the SEA Games, the female football team played out one draw and five wins. “Despite being less physically imposing, the girls’ bravery helped them to successfully win the championship for the sixth time,” coach Chung said.

No fan can forget the image of Chuong Thi Kieu, who performed courageously in the final against Thailand despite sporting a bandaged left leg after being on the receiving end of a tough challenge. Seeing the exhausted girls after the match emphasised how they had fought hard and devoted all their efforts to making their country proud.

The games also witnessed several outstanding performances from distance runner Nguyen Thi Oanh, who won three steeplechase golds. Despite weighing in at a mere 46kg, Oanh sensationally managed to win two gold medals in a single day, finishing in first place in the 5,000m in the morning and setting a games record in the 3,000m steeplechase in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, swimmer Nguyen Thi Anh Vien performed heroically to gain six gold medals and one silver.

Of the total medals that the Vietnamese squad gained at the SEA Games, 53 out of 98 gold medals (54 per cent), 38 out of 85 silver (45 per cent), and 42 out of 105 bronze (40 per cent) were attained by female athletes.

Over recent years, sport has gone some way to help narrow the societal gap between men and women in Vietnam. Although in the past many sports were considered the domain of men, they now involve more and more female athletes and fans. It partly reflects the dawning of a new era in Vietnam, where male and female fans alike are able to share the same sporting passions, and experience the same highs and lows.

Fastest global HDI growth

Ranked 68th out of 162 countries on the Gender Inequality Index and with a Gender Development Index value of 1.003, Vietnam is placed in the top group of five. Worthy of praise is the share of seats in parliament, which places Vietnam among the top one third of countries globally.

These results have contributed to Vietnam’s good progress in human development, with an average annual Human Development Index (HDI) growth of 1.36 per cent since 1990. This places Vietnam in the group of countries with the highest HDI growth rates in the world.

Caitlin Wiesen, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam, spoke at the 2019 Human Development Report launch in Hanoi. “Vietnam’s significant progress since 1990 has been achieved with relatively low increases in inequality. Taking into account inequality-adjusted HDI, Vietnam is eight places higher than its HDI ranking in 2018,” she said.

With an HDI value of 0.693, Vietnam’s ranks at the upper end of the Medium Human Development group of countries (118th out of 189), and needs only an additional 0.007 points to join the High Human Development group. Vietnam’s loss of HDI value due to inequality in 2018 is 16.3 per cent, its loss of income due to inequality is 18.1 per cent, and its Gini coefficient (a way of measuring income inequality) of 35.3 are among the lowest in the Asia - Pacific region.

Meanwhile, according to the preliminary results of the 2019 census in Vietnam, 91.7 per cent of the school-age population currently attends schooling in some form. The non-attendance rate for girls is lower than for boys, at 7.5 per cent and 9.2 per cent respectively. Thus, the quality and educational level of Vietnam’s population have been improving markedly.

Elisa Fernandez - Head of Office UN Women Vietnam

a trailblazing contribution to equality
A trailblazing contribution to equality

Gender equality is indispensable for all aspects of socio-economic life. It is not only a basic human right but also a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable Vietnam.

Ten years ago, Vietnam developed its first National Strategy on Gender Equality and since then, Vietnam has led Asia-Pacific in making progress across many socio-economic fields.

Now, the country faces new challenges due to global economics, Industry 4.0 tech, and climate change and demographic issues. These challenges require the country to develop specific policies to maintain achievements and simultaneously address existing gender issues.

It is important that the principle of leaving no-one behind is included in the National Strategy on Gender Equality towards 2030.

Future plans

Over recent years Vietnam has identified human development as the most important element to take the country towards sustainability. As a result, the country is determined to strongly attract and promote the resources and creativity of all people in order to take care of and raise their material and spiritual lives.

Although Vietnam has implemented varying solutions and achieved a great deal for human development in general and gender equality in particular, there is still room for improvement. With a multi-dimensional poverty index value of 0.019, Vietnam ranks 29th out of 102 countries, and is among the top countries in Asia-Pacific for inequality in income.

Inequality is being looked at globally, not only in Vietnam, through the lens of distribution of power, be it political or monopolies in the market, while equal treatment and non-discrimination can be even more important than the imbalances in income distribution.

Ha of the CEPEW told VIR that there are four issues Vietnam should see as a priority to solve. “First is gender stereotypes and discrimination against women and girls with disabilities, ethnic minorities, the poor, migrants, and those suffering from HIV/AIDS. This is followed by sex imbalance at birth, gender-based violence, and the low economic power of women.”

According to Ha, if these four issues are not ultimately solved, they will affect economic growth, state budget expenditure, and sustainable development goals.

While women’s football globally is enjoying much greater awareness, in many countries the sport cannot ensure financial security for players, and Vietnam is no exception. Low salaries mean women still have to take on extra jobs after training and matches, and players cannot live on the attention and love of fans alone.

However, addressing the reception held to greet the conquering footballing heroes, PM Phuc said that the government would ensure measures are in place to help female athletes devote their talents towards further sporting success. “This victory will be a strong inspiration to culture, society, and the economy, proving that everyone can contribute towards the prosperity of Vietnam,” he said.

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