Capacity development, learning, change, poverty/power/progress
I was checking out events on International Women's Day, next week the 8th of March. Then I remembered that Vietnam has its own National Women's Day on the 20st of October. That day has grown into something like Valentines Day, or Mothers Day. Women expect to receive flowers and to get pampered by their husbands and male colleagues. Men will offer a rose or chocolates to female colleagues.
Originally 20 Oct was only for members of Vietnam Women’s Union. They celebrated the foundation day of their organisation with recreational events such as: cooking, sports or music competitions. Apparently, until a decade ago it was not a even national day. I read that one of the most powerful ladies in the Government Leadership petitioned the Government and the National Assembly to have Vietnam Women’s Union day recognized by the people of Vietnam as to respect women's decication to the country and family, apart from the International Women’s Day. As it happened, 20 October became most popular nationwide.
Vietnamese women deserve to be treated special at least one day of the year, as the men seem to do very very little in the home. Listening to newly wedded Vietnamese women, that is not really changing yet either. And I'm speaking to middle class women, who speak English. One would expect change to start from there, no?
It makes me think back about an article in The Economist about Asia's women rejecting marriage. Very high percentages of women in Bangkok, Tokyo and Singapore are no longer getting married. The article suggests that this might have a lot to do with divorce being so unacceptable in these societies. India and China do not yet feel this effect, but according to The Economist, that is just a matter of time.
So, what have I done this year about gender inequality? I keep it on the agenda in my work. I like to stress the fact that doing a few specific things well to advance women is more effective than trying to mainstream gender everywhere. I check monitoring tools on their gender sensitivity, because I have seen that it creates valuable insight in how women are different from men. I give space to women in workshops and encourge them to speak up. I feed local NGO friends who are boldly working to shift mindsets with information and contacts that may help them keep their courage up. Nothing bold and big, but I do it pretty consistently I think.
If we all carry a few small stones every day, we can make a mountain in our lifetime.
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