Speech by Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative on Role of Media in Promoting Increased Women’s Participation in National Assembly and People Council Elections

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Date: 25th February 2016
Event: Role of Media in Promoting Increased Women’s Participation in National Assembly and People Council Elections
Venue: Hilton Opera House, Hanoi  

Mr. Nguyen Trong Dam, Vice- Minister of MOLISA and Vice-Chair of NCFAW;
Ms. Trương Thị Mai, Central Party Member, Member of the NA Standing Committee, Chairwoman of the NA Committee for Social Affairs, Chairwoman of the Women’s Caucus;
Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Hoa, President of Viet Nam Women’s Union;
Editors in Chief;
Distinguished Government Officials;
Ladies and gentlemen;

I would like to start by wishing you a heartfelt happy new year in this special year of the red monkey.

I am very pleased to speak at this very timely workshop on the role of media in increasing women’s political participation in Viet Nam. First of all, let me begin by congratulating the National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW) for its great efforts and contribution to improving gender equality and strengthening women advancement in Viet Nam. Over the past 23 years, NCFAW has played a key role in establishing a strong legal framework and national strategy to remove discriminatory attitudes, practices and structures that are barriers to gender equality in all aspects of the society and promote women rights.

Today’s meeting is a very critical step in ensuring that the target of women’s representation, as stated in the National Strategy on Gender Equality, are met. As you are aware, the National Strategy on Gender Equality for the period 2011-2020 sets a target of a minimum 35 percent women’s representation in the 2016 election. As currently Viet Nam has only 24 percent women in the National Assembly, significant changes are required in order to meet the target and bridge historic imbalance in political representation.

Politics is a male dominated institution and there are many odds against women. Societal norms, stereotyped image of women and her role, perception of their capacity and tenacity – all collectively impose huge challenges and barriers for women who aspire to be in politics. Many, and simultaneous, actions are needed by both men and women to overcome various gender barriers. Such as empowering women candidates with knowledge of the electoral process and to confidently engage with voters. Last year with government partners, UNDP launched an eLearning course entitled Ready for Success – training of potential women candidates in the 2016 elections to support women candidates in a manner that allows them to enhance their knowledge and skills as well as develop their self-confidence to be a successful delegate. One of the modules of this training course covers how to engage with media and practical advice on interview techniques, public speaking, and engaging with media. This online course is free, is open to all and is easily accessible.

We are also supporting public awareness to break stereotypes that men are more naturally suited to leadership positions. The #HowAbnormal campaign, launched in December last year targets both women and men and uses videos showing role reversal of stereotyped roles of women and men to highlight the double standards we often hold for men and women. The campaign challenges preconceived ideas of gender norms that restrict the advancement of women. We hope that this campaign will help change age old preconceived perceptions of stereotype gender roles.   

The focus of today’s meeting is on the role media can play in promoting women’s representation. Media is a powerful force for change and its greatest influence in politics is during elections. It can play a crucial role in multiple ways to help increase participation of women in politics, however, like in all spheres, women are poorly represented in decision making positions in the media industry. Currently, only 22 percent of Director level decision makers are women, while we do see a large percentage of women reporters in TV, newspaper and radio.

I would like to make three recommendations to the media community present here today.

First, media has the power to shape social values, gender norms and opinions, it is one of the most important tools for positive change and in breaking stereotypes. Often media objectifies women and perpetuates stereotypical roles of women, largely because most media houses are also male dominated.

It is important that media industry build their own understanding and capacity for gender sensitive reporting and adopt conscious policies to break away from stereotyped portrayal of women as subordinates to showcasing them as equal partners in shaping societies and leading at commune, district, provincial and national level in different public spheres.

Secondly, media can play crucial role in informing citizens of government’s commitment to achieve 35 percent target of elected women delegates in 2016 elections. Both the National Strategy on Gender Equality and Resolution 11 call for a minimum of 35 percent women’s representation in the 2016 election. Moreover, Viet Nam has made international commitments such as under the CEDAW and recently adopted new Sustainable Development Goals which both call for an increase in women’s political representation. Throughout the election process, media has a role to provide gender disaggregated news and analysis on status of nomination and selection of candidates at all levels and if the target is being met or not.

Third, is to promote women candidates throughout the election process. It is commendable that the new electoral law includes a gender quota of a minimum 35 percent of women candidates, however, experience shows that to meet this target, a much higher percentage of women candidates is necessary. Often we hear that it may be difficult to meet this target because there are not enough eligible women. Perhaps one of the problems is that potential women candidates are not publicly visible. A Global media Monitoring study conducted in 2015 in Vietnam found that only 22 percent of the coverage spotlighted women and their issues in newspaper, television and radio and only 18 percent in the internet news. Media can play a huge role in bringing women leaders in the spotlight. It is important that TV, newspapers, etc. give visibility to their contribution in public affairs and ensure equal media coverage and opportunity for public appearances during the election process.

I would like to conclude with a hope that in this red monkey year, which symbolizes innovations, creativity and courage to throw away old ideas and notions, Viet Nam will not only achieve, but surpass, its own target of 35% gender quota and move towards greater gender equality at provincial and national level elected assemblies. This cannot be achieved without the commitment and involvement of the media.

In this red monkey year, I wish you all good health, happiness, success and, above all, the courage to break away from discriminatory stereotypes and ensure that the 50 percent of the population of Viet Nam is enabled to participate, shape and lead country’s development.  

Xin cam on!