National Knowledge Contest on Gender Equality in Agriculture
In Vietnam, gender issues have received increasing attention in the agricultural domain. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has a Gender Equality Action Plan for 2016-2020 expressing its commitment to address gender equality in the agricultural sector, and gender mainstreaming has been increasingly considered in agricultural projects. As the organization in charge of the agricultural domain, it is crucially important for MARD to raise awareness on gender equality and build the capacity of agriculture staff working in different departments and institutions of the Ministry to mainstream gender in their work. On June 22, MARD, with support from SNV, organized a competition workshop to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality in agriculture among its leaders, key officers and practitioners.
The conference is one of the activities under the cooperation framework between SNV and MARD (2016-2020) in the field of climate-smart agriculture, energy and women’s economic empowerment, in general, and under the "Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises” (EOWE) program in particular. The organizers of the competition workshop opted for a creative approach in the form of a contest to raise awareness about gender equality and to reflect on the importance of gender in agriculture through different performances, including role play, quizzes and music. Mr. Nguyen Cong Nhue, Gender Advisor at SNV, was among the six judges of the competition-workshop, and his contribution was key to the success of the event.
The competition workshop was attended by more than 200 participants from 29 departments and institutions belonging to MARD, several provincial DARDs, international organizations and other stakeholders, including Mr. Nguyen Minh Nhan, Deputy Director of the Committee for the Advancement of Women; Mr. Nguyen Van Truong, Chairman of the Ministry’s Trade Union; Mr. Chu Van Chuong, Deputy Director of Ministry’s ICD; Ms. Alison Rusinow, Country Director of SNV Vietnam; and Ms. Tran Tu Anh, Climate Smart Agriculture/Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme Manager at SNV.
The event provided a platform for the participants to compete on their knowledge of gender issues and to raise concerns and debates on and solutions for critical gender discrimination/inequality. The main issues that were raised included preference for boys over girls, discrimination in recruitment (preference to male applicants), domestic violence and unequal control over decision-making. These discussions were linked to the opportunities provided by the Law on Gender Equality and the Gender Equality Action Plan for the agricultural sector for the period 2016-2020 and to the mandates/roles of each department under MARD. The departments shared and promoted how their work can be gender-sensitized and contribute to the common goal, e.g. women in leadership and science, women leading agriculture programs (food safety, forestry, hospital, technology etc.), women participating in decision-making and husbands sharing the responsibility for household tasks.
Vietnam is an agriculture-based country with approximately 57 percent of the workforce working in the agriculture sector, and of this agricultural workforce, women make up around 60 percent. In comparison to men, rural women have less access to and control over the resources that they depend upon for food and income. The baseline studies of SNV’s EOWE program show that gender norms and intra-household power relations influence women’s control over resources and decision-making power in their households and communities. Women are expected not only to participate in income generating activities but also to take care of their families and households, working an average of 4.1 hours per day on household tasks, in comparison to men’s 1.1 hours per day. The time women spend on household tasks reduces the time they can commit to economic activities.
Women in Vietnam also lack decision making power when it comes to larger purchases, including those they need to start or grow a business, severely limiting their ability to contribute meaningfully to household and national economic growth. And Vietnamese women rarely participate in any kind of trade or business associations — in fact, SNV’s findings show that only 2.5 percent of women do so. Rural women’s high workloads, lack of decision-making power and lack of networks and leadership within those networks hinder women from creating viable or more profitable agribusinesses.
During the competition workshop, Alison Rusinow, Country Director of SNV Vietnam, highlighted in her opening speech that “The question is not: should we work on gender? The question is: why should we not work on gender? The question is not: what will it cost? The question is: what will it generate in terms of economic and social benefits?” The organization of the competition workshop, as well as the high-level participation, was an important highlight of the commitment of key actors to increase gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in the agriculture and rural development sector in Vietnam.