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Opening Remarks by Kamal Malhotra United Nations Resident Coordinator UNDP Resident Representative, Viet Nam at Panel Discussion with Helen Clark on “Women Leaders and Breaking Gender Stereotypes”

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Event: Panel Discussion with Helen Clark on "Women Leaders and Breaking Gender Stereotypes"

Date: 8 November 2018

Venue: Green One UN House, 304 Kim Ma, Ha Noi, Viet Nam

  • The Rt. Honorable Helen Clark, previous Prime Minister of New Zealand, previous UNDP Administrator and previous Chair of the United Nations Development Group;
  • Excellency, Ambassador Wendy Matthews, Ambassador of New Zealand in Viet Nam;
  • UN and UNDP colleagues;
  • Distinguished Guests,

I am delighted to welcome Helen Clark. She is my former boss and someone I admire. I interacted with her closely over 8 years both on global and regional issues and in many different country contexts – Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, Syria and even Viet Nam briefly. So, it is a special privilege and pleasure for me to welcome her here today to the UN's ecological and otherwise front runner ONE UN House in the world. Helen Clark has worked throughout her career tirelessly to promote gender equality and empowerment of women and she has paved the way for women to step up and lead. I would like to thank her and all of you for joining this event today which is aimed at promoting women's empowerment and leadership.

While the main reason for advancing both women's and gender causes should be rights-based, there are good economic reasons for doing this as well. A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute highlighted that "by advancing women's equality, the economies of Asia Pacific could boost their collective GDP by 4.5 trillion a year by 2025*. Through its endorsement of the SDGs, Viet Nam has committed to achieving Gender Equality and Empowering all Women and Girls by 2030. Viet Nam has a strong track record of promoting gender equality and women's empowerment. Last month, UNDP shared in-depth analysis on the latest statistical data from the Human Development Indices and Indicators and Viet Nam ranks 67 out of 160 countries.

However, both as UN Resident Coordinator and as the Co-Chair of the Informal Gender Ambassadors and Heads of Agencies Group, I am all too aware that the current situation is still far from where Viet Nam has stated its wishes to be and should be, given its aspiration and the historic role of women in the liberation movement. The current review of the Labour Code provides an excellent opportunity to address some of these issues as both the UN and our Informal Gender Ambassadors & Heads of Agencies Group continues to do. Numerous challenges remain including discriminatory practices in hiring and promotion, women being seen as unfit for jobs in certain occupations and for leadership positions in many professions and the substantive pay gap which exists between men and women for similar work. Viet Nam is also one of the few countries with a significant difference in the age of retirement for women and men in government jobs where we see many women being forced to retire at the age of 55 while men retire at 60. While this is hopefully about to change, and the gap is likely to reduce, there should be no gap at all. These stereotypes and norms create unequal power relations between men and women that normalize and condone men's dominance in leadership positions. We therefore encourage Vietnam to pursue efforts to further strengthen the empowerment of women and work towards the achievement of gender equality, using the revised Labour Code in 2019 as one major instrument to address gender inequalities.

As part of UNDP's continuous work supporting women empowerment and leadership in Viet Nam, UNDP Viet Nam launched in 2016 a nation-wide and youth-oriented campaign called #How Abnormal, which aimed at putting a spotlight on prevalent discriminatory gender stereotypes in Vietnam. It was a great success and was well appreciated by many educational institutions, development agencies and students across Viet Nam. As part of the campaign, many Festival days were organized in the 13 largest universities, featuring student drama performances on breaking gender stereotypes and talk shows with champions of gender equality. The events were very successful and all together 30,000 students joined these events and 15,000 people signed the on-line pledge forms to commit to breaking negative gender stereotypes. There was also a photo exhibition "Women can do", which you are seeing here today.

Inspired by the success of the first campaign, a second stage was launched. The main objective shifted to promoting the proactive role of youth in breaking gender stereotypes in occupational choices and promoting the concept of transformational and influential leadership among youth in contributing to community development in Viet Nam. At the heart of both campaigns has been a film competition that supports young groups of film makers to present touching and fresh ways of breaking gender stereotypes. UNDP has also implemented several other projects promoting gender equality and women's empowerment such as providing leadership training for women leaders and cadres at community level.

Unless we reduce inequalities between men and women, the latter will continue to face more discrimination and less opportunities in this country, regionally and globally. So today we are here to listen to young women leaders speak about their stories working on the ground to overcome gender stereotypes and unleash the full potential of women in Viet Nam. I believe all the participants here, whether working or still studying in universities, have been active agents of change. Together, we need to keep working towards creating a more equal and inclusive society to finally bridge the gender gap.

We look forward to hearing from our young Vietnamese women leaders and from Helen Clark about her truly inspiring journey breaking many glass ceilings along the way as multiple-time Prime Minister of New Zealand between 1999 and 2008 and two time UNDP Administrator between 2009 and 2017 when she was also Chair of the United Nations Development Group.

I thank you very much for your attention this morning. Please enjoy the event and the discussion.

Thank you! Xin cảm ơn!