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Tuesday, 02 February 2016 09:53
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Ensuring rural women’s rights in the modernization of rural areas

(LLCT) - In order to modernize rural areas, it is important that rural households are wealthy and progressive. In every household, women manage resources and decide on major investments in production, business, house building and household appliances together with their husbands. They represent a vital part of the modernization of rural areas in Vietnam.

Over 70% of the Vietnamese population lives in the countryside. Rural women live and work in areas of various conditions. They belong to a variety of ethnic groups and religions, are of all ages, have different educational backgrounds, and jobs. At present, they account for 58.02% of the labor force in the agricultural, forestry, and fishing industries and produce more than 60% of agricultural products. They play an important role in the household economy and are the breadwinners of rural households. As an increasing number of men are switching to non-agricultural jobs and moving to cities to find work, rural women have come to play a decisive role in economic, cultural, social, and communal activities and participate directly in the building of infrastructure, restructuring of the agricultural sector, development of cultural and spiritual lives, and management of communities.

In order to modernize rural areas, it is important that rural households are wealthy and progressive. In every household, women manage resources and decide on major investments in production, business, house building and household appliances together with their husbands. They represent a vital part of the modernization of rural areas in Vietnam.

The Communist Party and State of Vietnam have always identified rural women as an important force in the implementation of strategies aimed at modernizing rural areas. They have adopted the Strategy for the modernization of rural areas based on the Resolution on agriculture, farmers and rural areas passed by the 7th Conference of the 10th Party Central Committee and the Politburo’s Conclusion 97-KL/TW of 9 May 2014, which included guidelines and solutions for the implementation of measures towards modernization. In particular, the Concluding statement No.97 requested “each politico-social mass organization to carry out one of the tasks of development of agriculture and modernization of rural areas”(1). The Vietnamese Women’s Association was one such organization.

Upholding rural women’s rights is not only a duty of the Party and the State, but also an effective solution to the challenges of modernization in rural areas of Vietnam.

Firstly, ensuring rural women’s rights is an international duty for the State of Vietnam as a member of most international conventions on human rights, including the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of 1979. Article 14 of the CEDAW stipulates the responsibilities of member countries for protecting women’s rights.

As a matter of fact, as a CEDAW member, Vietnam has tried and succeeded in fulfilling its duty to respect and ensure rural women’s rights(2).

Concerning the right to participate in the management of society, the rapid growth of the rural economy as a result of the renovation period has given rural women more job opportunities, has enabled them to improve their awareness of social issues, and has allowed them to participate in the formulation of social development plans and their implementation.    

Regarding the right to health care and social security, because of the policies to increase investment in health care facilities and providing health insurance for farmers, rural women have received better health care and have benefitted from social security plans. Rural citizens, especially women, have recently had easier access to health care services. All communes and wards have clinics, and about 75% of the communes have doctors. 83% of rural households have had access to hygienic water, 96.1% of them have had access to electricity and 86.9% of them have TV sets. More than 97% of the communes have roads leading to their centers and about 90% of them have post offices-cum-cultural centers(3).

Concerning the right to employment and vocational training, activities aimed at promoting agriculture, fishing and forestry have been organized nationwide in order to disseminate industry knowledge, transfer technology and apply scientific advances to actual production. In particular, agricultural promotion training courses have taken place on paddy fields where rural women can conveniently learn and practice new production models and techniques.

In relation to access to social insurance, the Party and State have issued a number of policies to benefit vulnerable groups, particularly the disabled, children, elderly, and women.

Regarding the right to equal access to credit, the Vietnam Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Vietnamese Women’s Association have jointly implemented a policy aiming to provide money lending services to poor women and farmers in remote areas so they can expand their production or business, thereby improving their standard of living.

Concerning rural women’s land use right, the revised Law on Land of 2003 stipulates that land is a married couple’s common asset and that a land use certificate must bear the names of both husband and wife.

Regarding the right to live in a safe, favorable and clean environment, the Vietnamese Government has implemented the Program for clean water and public hygiene to rural areas for the 2006-2010 period and has invested in rural infrastructure, considering these to be important measures aimed at rural socio-economic development and reduction of poverty among the rural population, including women.

Secondly, rural women’s rights must be ensured and equal opportunities provided for women in general in order to implement the National target program for the modernization of rural areas. Given its position, role and responsibility, the Vietnamese Women’s Association has launched the “Building Five no’s and Three clean’s families” movement(4), which conforms to the objectives of the Program and acts as the driving force behind its implementation nationwide. The Resolution passed by the 11th National women’s Congress in its 2012-2017 term of office considers the movement to be an important task that must be carried out throughout its term, ensuring that women are encouraged to modernize rural areas and instructed how to implement that program. The “Five no’s and Three clean’s families” conform to most criteria for the modernization of rural areas and all aim to improve the quality of life of families and communities. Rural women play a major role in the fulfillment of the 8 criteria laid down by the movement and 19 criteria for the modernization of rural areas.

While actively taking part in the modernization of rural areas, rural women have equal opportunities to gain access to the program and benefit from it. As an important labor force in the countryside, women will benefit from upgraded or reinforced socio-economic infrastructure, strengthened administrations and developed local production. Once markets become more efficiently planned, people will be able to buy and sell goods conveniently and hygienic standards will be met. A well-organized and high-quality educational system will facilitate schooling, reduce illiteracy, increase educational standards, help girls to gain knowledge and skills, and provide children with more opportunities to have good and stable employment later on. Once health care is improved and preventive medicine carried out in rural areas, women’s health and their family will be in good care and people will save money that would be otherwise spent on treatment at hospitals in cities. A green, clean, beautiful environment will help people have access to clean water and hygienic toilets, thereby reducing contamination. Once cultural and spiritual activities, such as local traditions, arts and sport clubs, are organized at hamlets, fine local customs will be preserved and promoted. Effectively operational cooperative model will help people, including women, to achieve better coordination in production, thereby increasing their productivity and income, sustaining a reduction of poverty, and helping to enrich themselves in a legitimate way. Once administrations and politico-social organizations are strengthened and social order and security ensured, people’s trust in the Party’s guidelines and State’s policies will increase. Rural people are to receive frequent attention and participate in politico-social activities in their localities in an equal and democratic manner. They should be encouraged to discuss and implement policies and activities that have major implications on people’s lives and supervise their implementation. Any work should be done in a public and democratic way so that people feel secure in their production, businesses, and lives.

Rural women have made an important contribution to the success of the Program for the modernization of rural areas. At the same time, they are the ones who have personally benefitted from it. Nevertheless, they are still faced with a number of obstacles caused by lack of public awareness, their own abilities, cultural biases, social policies, men’s attitudes to women, and women’s attitudes towards themselves, which has limited their opportunities to devote themselves to work and reap benefits from it. They remain a vulnerable and disadvantaged demographic and are not fully equal to men. As a matter of fact, the proportions of women leaders or managers are far from consistent and they tend to increase slowly and unsteadily. In a large number of provinces and districts, the proportion of women who are members of local Party committees is low. In the 2010-2015 term of office, only 18.01% of the steering board of Party committee at commune level, 18% of commune level Party committee members and only 7.25% of commune Party committee secretaries were women. In the 2011-2016 term, the proportion of women members of commune level people’s councils is 27.71%, and only 4.09% of chair people of people’s councils at the commune level are women(5). Rural women’s participation in grassroots political units is lower than men’s. They have less decision-making power and fewer of them hold major positions than that of men.

One of the reasons for this situation is that the awareness of the public and women themselves remains somewhat limited as to their role in the modernization of rural areas. There still exists a preference for men over women in general society and families while women remain insecure or hesitant about their status and ability. This has led rural Vietnamese women to feel complacent or stop trying. Also, due to the market mechanism and social development, women have had to burden more responsibilities as wives and mothers who spend most of their time on housework and taking care of their families, so they do not have much chance for personal development or enjoyment of cultural or spiritual values. Although the law does not prejudice against men or women, in fact, women generally find themselves in a disadvantaged position. Gender inequality still exists in many areas of social life and has hindered the advancement of women, especially those living in rural areas.

In order to remove such hindrance and further encourage women’s participation in the modernization of rural areas, Party committees and authorities at different levels need to further disseminate laws on women’s rights and keep a closer eye on violations of such rights, punishing violators accordingly. Rural women’s rights must be ensured with equal opportunities to participate actively and effectively in the current modernization of rural areas in Vietnam.

 

Dr. Nguyen Thi Bao

Inspection Board

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

 

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