Reflections about the Women & Leadership program in Vietnam
by Carole Snyder (Emergency Preparedness Program Manager in LA, USA)
Today, we had the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Women’s Union, where senior representatives from the Union and the Intellectual Union met with us to discuss the promotion of women’s roles in society as well as sharing their mission and frustrations. Ms Tran This Phuong Hoa, Vice president of the Women’s Union discussed the mission to protect women and children’s rights throughout the country. She shared that the Union contributes recommendations to the communist party policy and regulations regarding education and gender equality. Characteristics the Union would like to promote among Vietnamese women are confidence, pride, loyalty to the communist party and nguoi, which is that all people are human and there is no difference between women and men. The Union supports women by providing skills and knowledge through vocational schools and education, hoping that knowledge will benefit the next generation. The Union reports directly to the communist party.
Associate Professor, Dr Truong Thi Hien is a leader in the Intellectual Union and reported that this is a relatively new union supporting 175,000 members throughout the country. Throughout Vietnam’s history, women have had a large impact on its development. One disparity Dr Hien shared is the mandatory retirement for women, which is 55 years of age versus men at 65. The function of the Intellectual Union is to encourage education to enhance the development of Ho Chi Minh City, support gender equality by providing advice and guidance, suggest changes to Vietnamese policy, and share lessons with women in order to seek a better life and future.
The afternoon took us to Mr Van’s house/office. Mr Van is a social worker that has been working with the undeserved population for many years. We met four distinctly different groups at his home and split our group to visit the four areas he serves: HIV and drug addiction, deaf mutes, street kids, and women who have been granted micro loans.
One group toured the “ghost town” led by a prominent female leader and member of Mr Van’s program from the community. The neighborhood was a maze of small ‘houses’ that averaged in size from 1 meter by 3 meters and were made of bricks, wood, tarpaulins and anything the people could find. The alleyways were narrow and action packed. The main source of income for these people is making offerings to sell at the markets. Scooters raced through the alleys alongside families preparing meals, playful puppies, and drug addicts and dealers. Although this area was considered a slum, there seemed to be a sense of pride as the neighborhood looked and smelled clean and people seemed happy and not desperate. This group ended their walk with a stop at the outdoor market to purchase bananas!