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Remarks by Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Deputy Country Director at leadership and management training for MOFA women officials and mid-level managers from External Affairs Departments

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Date: Wednesday, 15 July 2015, 08.30am
Event: Leadership and Management Training for MOFA women officials and mid-level managers from External Affairs Departments
Venue: Windy Hotel, 23 Thong Phong alley, Ton Duc Thang Str., Ha Noi

Ambassador Nguyen Thi Nguyet Nga, Director, Standing Secretariat for APEC Viet Nam 2017
Ms. Pham Thi Anh, Deputy Director, Department of Economic Affairs
Participants from across Viet Nam, ladies and gentlemen:

I am pleased to be with you today for the opening of this important training, which I understand is the third such course that promotes management and leadership skills of female mid-level managers and officials from external affairs departments. I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for organizing this training event and for working closely with UNDP to promote women’s leadership initiatives.

The training is designed develop leadership and management skills of participants in policy analysis and advice, data collection and report writing, presentations, chairing meetings, networking and negotiations. The course will equip you with knowledge and skills to be better at what you do – which is to represent Viet Nam’s vis-à-vis international partners in this increasingly integrated world. I hope the training gives you the knowledge and confidence to develop and grow in your career paths.

As is the case in many countries in the region, women are vastly under-represented in decision-making positions in Viet Nam. Only 8% of Ministerial, Vice-Ministerial and equivalent positions and 12% of Director-General and Deputy Director-General posts are occupied by women. Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where being posted overseas is a key success indicator, only 3.2% of Ambassadors, 2.3% of Minister-Counsellors and 12.5% of First Secretaries are women.

More broadly, women’s representation in the public sector is a matter of equity and fairness. Its basic premise is that half of the humanity must have an equal say about issues that matter to all of us. Women leaders are able to bring their unique experiences and perspectives into the decision-making process. This does not mean that men as leaders should be gender-blind. Time and time again, we realize that decision-making must apply a gender lens – from socio-political issues to labor relations and economic participation – all of which require harnessing the full potential of human resources and workforce. These policies and decisions can only be enriched if they reflect equal perspectives of women and men alike.

A recent global study on gender equality in public administration found that women very rarely make up 30% of key decision-makers in public administration. This percentage was set as a minimum target in the internationally agreed Beijing Platform for Action, which is meant to ensure that women have a critical voice in governance. In general, women face greater challenges in political and workforce participation including discrimination in screening and hiring, nomination and promotion practices, gender-insensitive work cultures including lack of support for women’s role outside of work.

Many countries are implementing policies to address these challenges, including Viet Nam. The recently enacted Law on Election, for the first time, stipulates a target of at least 35% female candidates in order to increase women’s representation in elected bodies such as the National Assembly and People’s Councils. The legislated minimum target for candidates should motivate all relevant institutions to nurture and promote an even greater percentage of qualified women to stand for office – and to get elected.

Dear course participants:
It is important to be aware of policies, enabling factors and challenges influencing women’s role in decision-making. At the end of the day, however, this training is about you. It is about not letting your role in social and professional arenas be defined by society’s expectations. Each one of you has own ambitions and aspirations, and it is important to work towards them and make your views count along the way. In the workplace, you already know that your perspectives matter, so you should continue to speak up and be heard in order to shape, influence and lead. Find role models to whom you can relate. Good role models are often around us. Find mentors – women or men – who can guide you from their wisdom and errors. Speak to what you believe in and treat yourself with respect that others should also bestow upon you. Competence, professionalism and, importantly, confidence in your own abilities can and will make a big difference.

In closing, I encourage you to make the most of this training session and use this opportunity to learn from, and network with, your colleagues from other localities. They can offer valuable experiences – and be your support network – in order to help you become stronger and more effective foreign service officials and leaders.

I wish you all a successful learning experience.