VietNamNet Bridge – Like any mother, Ta Thanh Binh is worried how she will cope when being away from her child while pursuing a master’s degree in the UK.
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"Being away from my child makes me feel like I am losing something," the 22-year-old Cambridge scholarship recipient said.
Nevertheless, the young teacher from Ha Noi Teachers’ Training College sees the opportunity as a chance to empower herself with new knowledge. She will leave for the UK late this month to start her one-year master’s degree in education at the University of Cambridge.
The scholarship to Cambridge is an example of the kinds of capacity building that is crucial for sustainable change, says UNDP country director Setsuko Yamazaki.
"Empowering women and strengthening women’s participation in decision-making and leadership is at the heart of sustainable socio-economic development," Yamazaki said at the conference on enhancing the contribution of women to the nation’s development on Sept 14.
"If Viet Nam is to continue its impressive development record in this area of international economic integration, it will be essential to find ways to mobilise the full potential of its workforce, both men and women."
"When they are equipped with the skills and political support to participate fully, women can play a strong role in their communities and countries."
The national strategy on gender equality has set a target of increasing the proportion of female master degree holders to 50 per cent by 2020 from a current 17.1 per cent. By that time, all ministries, ministerial-level and governmental agencies, and people’s committees are expected to feature the participation of women in their leadership.
"I would like to set a good example to my daughter that women should be highly-educated," Binh says. "And as a teacher I would like to pass on the knowledge and skills I will absorb to my own students."
"I don’t have an ambition to change Viet Nam’s entire education system, but I do hope to contribute a small part of my knowledge to that process."
The opportunity Binh grasps is seen as a vital factor to increasing equality between men and women.
According to Alice Perkins, former Group HR Director for the UK Civil Service, the issue of gender equality is the same in all countries, but the difference is the opportunity women have.
"Some countries make further progress in rebalancing differences than others because they have been doing it for longer, or maybe the circumstances are more beneficial," she said.
It is essential that "they [women] have to deal with opportunities of education, training, development, and cultural expectations."
According to Nguyen Duy Thang, head of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Committee for the Advancement of Women, more and more Vietnamese women are participating in various areas of society and holding important positions in the political system.
With a high proportion of women in parliament, Viet Nam ranks 4th in the Asia-Pacific region and 33rd in the world.
"Vietnamese women are striving for improvement in all areas, equipping themselves with knowledge in order to catch up with the regional and international communities. Women are increasingly self-motivated and confident in leadership, management, and scientific research; playing an active and courageous role in the market economy," he said.
The UNDP country director Yamazaki said she was impressed with significant progress Viet Nam had made in gender equality, but more should be done to ensure women had an equal say in the decisions which affect their lives.
"It is clear that Viet Nam has paid great attention and support to gender equality from earliest days of its constitution," said Yamazaki.
"Investment in women and girls is essential if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); and investment in this one area can drive MDG progress across all the goals."
She suggested that a strong political will, effective implementation of gender equality laws and capacity building will contribute to creating a future generation of strong women leaders.
That is what the Cambridge scholar Binh expects to see in the near future as she considers pursuing a PhD degree in education.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News
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