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Vietnamese female intellectuals currently in political theory research and teaching

(LLCT) Women participating in research and teaching of political theory not only affirms their status in politics, management and leadership, but also ensures women’s rights by providing ground for policy making at all levels and sectors, particularly ones with a large base of women. 

1. Female intellectuals in political theory research and teaching

The research and teaching of political theory is a difficult and unattractive field, and draws relatively low participation from women. At the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics - the leading centre for the research of political theory - the proportion of female intellectuals participated in political research and education is high. In September 2015, the total number of staff and lecturers of the Academy was 879, including 469 women. Among them, 125 women were lecturers, principal lecturers, or senior lecturers; 85 women were researchers, principal researchers, or senior researchers; 72 PhDs and 157 MAs were female; and 93 women held positions of deputy head of departments (boards) and higher (including 24 leaders, managers of departments, and equivalent or higher units).

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has issued two indicators for the assessment of women’s advancement with regard to the narrowing the gender gap. Firstly, the Gender Development Index (GDI), which is based on life expectancy, education and status compared between men and women. Secondly, the Gender Empowerment Measurement (GEM), which is based on women’s access to employment, economic and political opportunities. Thus, development and achievement indicators relate to women’s access to opportunities, including political participation.

In regard to political participation, the research and teaching of political theory helps to assess women’s capacity and quality. This represents an opportunity for them to develop, to make achievements and increase the status of women in society. In addition, it creates an environment that helps to inspire, liberate and promote women’s potential and establish equality between men and women. The Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) clearly stated: “Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved”. 

Women participating in research and teaching of political theory not only affirms their status in politics, management and leadership, but also ensures women’s rights by providing ground for policy making at all levels and sectors, particularly ones with a large base of women.

2. Factors affecting the development of female intellectuals in the research and teaching of political theory

Guidelines and policies of the Party and State

Vietnam has early ratified and implemented provisions of the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW, United Nations 1979), including the periodic submission of national reports on the implementation of CEDAW. Provisions of CEDAW include the political and civil participation of women (Article 1); participation in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country (Article 7); ensuring women the opportunity to represent their governments at the international level and to participate in the work of international organizations by appropriate measures of the States Parties (Article 8); and the implementation of temporary special measures aimed at improving women’s status and their social participation, overcoming discrimination against women in political, economic, cultural, social and familial life (Article 4).

Paying particular attention to the work of woman, the Party issued Decree 37-CT/TW on May 16th, 1994 on “Some issues in the work with female cadres in the coming period”, which required the continuation of training, sourcing, and building strategies for female workers in general and particularly female cadres.

The 11th Party National Congress (2011) affirmed that laws and policies on gender equality should be well implemented with regard to women, vocational training and knowledge fostering should be paid attention to; there should be policies to encourage more and more women to take part in the management bodies at all levels(1).

The Resolution 11-NQ/TW dated April 27th, 2007 by the Party Political Bureau on “The women-oriented work in the period of industrialization and modernization” emphasized,  “Building and steadily developing the force of female cadres to be proportional to the role of women in general society is the objective of the Party’s strategy concerning cadre work”. Criteria raised by the Resolution include: “By the year 2020, the percentage of female participants in the Party committees should reach 25% or more, female members in the National Assembly and the People’s Councils at all levels should reach 35% to 40%. Agencies and organizations with 30% or more women must have women amongst their leaders. High-ranking agencies of the Party, the National Assembly, and the Government must have an appropriate percentage of women relative to the goal of gender equality, ensuring the percentage of women participating in training courses at political theory and administrative management is 30% and over(2).

The Party’s viewpoints and guidelines have been translated into specific policies and legislation. They have continued to affirm our awareness of gender equity and have shown determination in implementing the international commitments of CEDAW towards this end.

Regarding the realization of gender equity, the Vietnamese Constitutions in their various iterations confirm all Vietnamese citizens are equal in their rights in every aspect: political, economic and cultural.

The Law on Gender Equality (2007) is one of the most important legal frameworks in ensuring equality in the right to vote and to self-nominate, which states that: Men and women are equal in self-nominating as candidates or in nominating candidates to the National Assembly and people’s councils, and are equal in self-nominating as candidates and in nominating candidates to lead agencies of political, socio-political and professional organizations. Further, the appropriate proportion of female members in positions on the National Assembly and people’s committees should be ensured in accordance with national gender equality goals.

Regarding women’s rights of participating in state management, the Law on Gender Equality regulates the right to participate in state management and its economic, social and law-making fields. The reinforcement of this law has contributed to a more favourable environment for women to participate in political and scientific affairs.

The mechanisms of promoting gender equality in scientific and educational activities in Vietnam have made many achievements in gender equality. These have been specified in decrees, guiding documents, and national action strategies on gender equality.

In 2008, the Government issued Decree 70/ND-CP entailing the implementation of the Law on Gender Equality. Then, the Government issued the Resolution 57/NQ-CP on the Government’s Action Plan until 2020 to implement Resolution 11 of the Political Bureau. The Resolution affirmed the promotion of women’s status across all fields of social life through the enhancement of their participation in leadership roles and management, the implementation of equal policies for men and women, the incorporation of specific mechanisms and policies of age in planning, training and promoting female cadres and public officials, and regulating the responsibilities of state administrative agencies at central and local levels to ensure the participation of women in state management(3).

The Government issued Decree 48/2009/ND-CP on May 19th, 2009, issuing resolutions to ensure gender equality and to meet the demand of information, education, and communication in order to popularize laws and policies on gender that would incorporate gender equality in policies for remote and poor areas.

The National Strategy on gender equality to 2020 states that promoting gender equality in politics is an important issue and the highest measurement of gender equity in the country. As such, the general goal by the year 2020 is to ensure equal opportunity of participation between men and women in all aspects. One of the resolutions towards this end is improving the current research on gender equality in order to provide solid premises for planning and implementing policies and laws.

Increasing requirements of research and teaching of political theory

The research and teaching of political theory is difficult, distinctive, extensive, and directly related to the ideology and developmental orientation of the country. Today, national and international developments have become more complicated and unpredictable, forcing the intelligentsia doing theoretical tasks to acquire intensive interdisciplinary knowledge. In reality, the force of female intellectuals working in research and teaching of political theory is now facing great challenges and the increasing requirements of theory, speciality, language, and practical application. Only by enhancing their knowledge and practical experience can female intellectuals advance and affirm their status. Reality has shown that female intellectuals, leading scientists and experts have many opportunities to work, to earn an income, and to participate in leadership and management with their intelligence. However, the number of these individuals remains limited. Most women working in research and teaching of political theory have to complete non-professional work outside of the university or institute to earn more income, which reduces their ability to enhance their professional knowledge and capabilities.

Female intellectuals’ burden in balancing dual functions of family and society

In society, the idea of “external sphere for men, while internal sphere for women” has been pervasive. This has influenced a number of people, including women in leadership and management positions, to consider the roles of wife and mother as a “heavenly duty”, and thus women are closely attached to family. The general perception that women must do housework, raise children, and obey their husbands is a huge obstacle to the development of women’s potential in social activities, including research and teaching of political theory.

Currently in Vietnam, the functions of a family are mostly entrusted to women and there are no exceptions for female intellectuals. According to sociological surveys, intellectual families reported that the housework done by the wife and the husband accounted for 42% and 5% respectively, and the housework done by both together is 53%. In terms of parenting, work done by the wife accounted for 40%, by the husband 10%, and by both 39% (4). Furthermore, few female intellectuals earned money with their knowledge, particularly in research and teaching of political theory. In addition to housework and child rearing, they are responsible for much more work to earn income for the daily living, education, health care and entertainment of their families. As such, housework taxes the intelligence, strength and time of female intellectuals and thus many women in research and teaching of political theory do not have enough resources to advance in their career.

Gender characteristics affecting research and teaching of political theory

Vietnamese women are diligent, careful, attentive, patient, dynamic, creative, responsible and eager to learn. These characteristics are advantages in the fields of research and teaching. In addition, sensitivity and practicality are elements that are often observable in women and are advantages to effective research.

Also, the prominent qualities of flexibility, kindness and rich emotion help them to conduct research more effectively and humanly. In political theory, the traits of women are stronger than those of men, such as being hardworking, far-sighted, and plan-oriented; women often have their work done on time and in a reasonable manner. The goals of their work are often fulfilled. These are all advantages that contribute to the success of women in the fields of research and teaching of political theory.

However, the research and teaching of political theory, particularly at high levels, requires comprehensive and systematic ways of thinking, vigilant political reason, and clear-sighted strategy. These requirements are sometimes contrary to women’s characteristics (such as single-mindedness, elaborateness, emotionality, and visual tendencies). To conduct research and teaching of political theory effectively, especially at high levels, female cadres must train themselves with cultural vision, strong will, spirit, and determination. In summary, while some psychological features of women are beneficial, they still face disadvantages in the prospect of participation in the research and teaching of political theory.

3. There should be policies creating more favourable conditions and environmental factors for women to do research and teaching of political theory

Society has not paid much attention to research on political theory, and thus the economic conditions and capacities of women in this field and their families are limited. Leaders, managers, and political organizations should raise the attention of policy-making agencies and the awareness of society in order to assist women working in the research and teaching of political theory. Such progress requires a cultural vision of female intellectuals’ research of political theory and represents a social responsibility. Leaders and lawmakers can support, assist, and facilitate women involved in research of political theory, help to eliminate gender biases and the male-centric viewpoint of politics, scientific research, and political theory, and further encourage women to participate in the research and teaching of political theory. Women should be provided with favourable conditions to participate in politics, research and teaching and, moreover, should have opportunities to develop independently while participating in research and teaching of political theory.

Nowadays, with political leadership considered primarily men’s “domain”, the research and teaching of political theory is difficult for women, especially considering the wide scope of the field and its distinctly male characteristics and thought. In addition, it is difficult for women to harmonize family and social work, as previously mentioned. Therefore, women within the realms of politics, research and teaching of political theory may have more difficulties than men in settling disputes between social work and family duties.

The situation of gender equality in Vietnam can be linked to many similarities with other countries, such as Canada, Italy, Poland and Rumania, in the late 1970s. Although there are certain differences between men and women on a number of aspects, there has been a large consensus in Vietnam that housework is a female duty. Therefore, to harmonize the role of wife and mother with the role of leadership and scientific research, female politicians, intellectuals, researchers, and lecturers have a “double burden”. In reality, not many women succeed in achieving this balance. There have been many family tragedies in which female intellectuals gave priority to the promotion of their scientific research. In pursuing the passion of scientific research, female intellectuals may fall into divorce or separation. On the contrary, if female intellectuals spend their time and strength on family issues, they will have fewer chances to be promoted in their political career and less time for scientific research. In other words, there still exist many barriers to the advancement of female Vietnamese intellectuals.


(1) Phan Thuan: Implementation of Ho Chi Minh ideology on women’s right to education in the training of female cadres, Human Rights Information - Institute of Human Rights Studies, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, vol. 7, 2010.

(2) The Party Political Bureau: Resolution 11-NQ/TW (2007) on the women-oriented work in the period of industrialization and modernization.

(3) The Government of Vietnam: Resolution 57/NQ-CP dated December 1st, 2009 on issuing the Government’s Action Plan in the period to 2020.

(4) Tran Thi Van Anh, Le Ngoc Hung: Women - Gender and Development,Women publishing House, Hanoi, 1996, p.184, 230 - 231.

Dr. Dang Kim Oanh

MA. Nguyen Thi Tuyet

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics



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