Cablegate: Vietnam's National Committee for the Advancement of Women

DE RUEHHI #1374/01 2151706
R 031706Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


REF: HANOI 00006

HANOI 00001374 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) The National Committee for the Advancement of Women in
Vietnam (NCFAW) is taking on domestic violence issues, gender
equality, and implementation of a national strategy on the
advancement of women for Vietnam by the end of 2010. A key part of
that strategy is to place more Vietnamese women into
ministerial-level positions and in the National Assembly (NA), where
women currently remain at just over 25 percent of all delegates.
Implementing the strategy will be a challenge, as the relevant
legislation on domestic violence has remained under consideration
for several years and traditional attitudes of tolerance for
domestic violence are only slowly changing. End Summary.


2. (SBU) Embassy PolOff met with Ms. Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu, Deputy
Director of the GVN's National Committee for the Advancement of
Women in Vietnam (NCFAW) on July 24, 2007. Thu said she was eager
to meet with embassy officials and discuss the workings of the
NCFAW; she requested that embassy officials send more visitors in
order to help increase the visibility of the NCFAW. The NCAFW is
independent of its larger and better-known cousin: the Vietnam
Women's Union, but Thu said the NCAFW is just as engaged on a
variety of women's issues. The NCFAW was established on June 11,
2001 by an act of the prime minister to promote the "government's
interest in the advancement of women." The NCFAW is comprised of 18
members, all at the vice-minister level (including officials of
organizations not in the formal government cabinet, but holding
equivalent rank). President of the Women's Union serves as the
NCFAW Chairwomen and NCFAW vice-chairs are selected from the
ministries of Education and Training and of Foreign Affairs.

3. (SBU) The Committee advises the Prime Minister in developing and
monitoring the implementation of a national strategy and plan of
action for the advancement of women's rights in the areas of labor,
education, health care, social, political and economic affairs.
NCFAW is the focal point for international cooperation on gender
equality, and coordinates GVN policy related to compliance and
implementation of the UN Convention of the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).


4. (SBU) Regarding the status of the country's first ever Law on
Gender Equality, which was passed in November 2006 (Reftel), Thu
said the National Commission for Population, Family and Children is
the institution responsible for drafting the final three decrees on
implementation and dissemination. Once complete, the final draft
will be presented to several ministries for final approval. Thu was
optimistic this would happen before the end of the year. Recently,
there has been concern from donors that the law on gender equality
may not be compatible with CEDAW, specifically the government's
maintenance of a lower retirement age for women than for men. (Note:
The current retirement age for men is 60 years and 55 years for
women. End note.) Thu does not believe this will prove to be as
contentious as some might think because the government will likely
categorize retirement age by sector and "keep the lower retirement
age only for those women working as factory workers and other labor
intensive jobs." She added that the six chapters and 44 articles of
the new gender equality law are in line with the spirit of CEDAW and
the Millennium Development Goals on gender equality.


5. (SBU) Thu highlighted NCFAW's 2010 national strategy and
anti-domestic violence campaign. She believes it was an easy
decision for the GVN to support the strategy since "Vietnamese women
account for 50.8 percent of the population and 50.6 percent of the
labor force." Specific objectives of the strategy, which started in
2006, include reducing the unemployment rate of women in urban areas
to below five percent by 2010; increasing the proportion of women
post-graduate degree holders to over 35 percent by 2010. In the
area of health care, the strategy states that by 2010, 95 percent of
women in Vietnam will have access to health care services.

6. (SBU) The goals for 2010 also call for the proportion of women
members in the National Assembly to rise to at least 33 percent by
the next session of the legislature (Note: Women in the current
legislature, just elected in May, hold slightly more than 25 percent

HANOI 00001374 002.2 OF 002

of the seats. End note.), and for 50 percent of political agencies
at the central and local level to have women leaders by the end of
2010. The Ministries of Health, Education and Training, Agriculture
and Rural Development, Labor - War Invalids and Social Affairs, and
Foreign Affairs all play a part in funding and implementing the

7. (SBU) In discussing domestic violence, Thu once again displayed
her passion for promoting women's issues. She explained that
although a survey was conducted in 2001 of over 2,000 women, it is
not comprehensive enough and expressed her wish to have a
nation-wide survey done soon. The 2001 survey, which was conducted
by the Commission on Social Affairs of the National Assembly in
eight provinces throughout Vietnam, found that 25 percent of women
suffer mental abuse and 30 percent have been sexually assaulted by
their husbands. Thu added that, due to the severity of domestic
violence in Vietnam, the government has taken steps to draft laws
aimed at protecting victims and sentencing violators.

8. (SBU) The draft Domestic Violence Prevention and Control bill is
expected to be submitted to the National Assembly for final approval
by the end of the year. According to Thu, "there is a stigma
attached to women who report cases of domestic violence but people
in general are now much more willing to admit it exists and do more
to prevent it." NCFAW sponsors workshops aimed at educating both
women and men about domestic violence and also continues to
highlight this issue through public awareness campaigns. The
project gets much of its support from a Ford Foundation grant.
While rural areas lack the financial support to provide crisis
centers where women can seek shelter away from abusive spouses,
villagers have established "intervention groups," allowing women to
live with another family while men of the village confront the
abuser. Thu believes that creating laws aimed at protecting victims
is important but the key is "changing a person's mindset and
educating individuals on why domestic violence is bad."

9. (SBU) Thu ended the meeting by reiterating earlier comments that
she would like to expand her dialogue with embassy officials and
looks forward to meeting visitors who specialize in women's issues
and developing a long-term dialogue.

10. (SBU) Comment: It is clear the NCFAW has its work cut out for
it. The National Assembly fell well short of its stated goal for
its May 2007 election and the 2007-2012 legislative term of
achieving a level of 30 percent female delegates. In the end, the
results came out at a just over 25 percent, even lower than the
percentage in the previous term. The new Law on Gender Equality,
which just took effect on July 1, 2007, will require that officials
and others undergo extensive training - which will require
significant new funding - to be implemented effectively at local
levels in Vietnam. The Bill on Domestic Violence has been in draft
form, and under debate, for several years. The concept that a
husband has the right to "teach" his wife and children by using
violence is still very deeply ingrained in some segments of the
Vietnamese population and has not to date been strongly challenged
in the court of public opinion. Nevertheless, there has been a
political shift in thinking and an increased recognition that
violence against women is a public health priority with legal,
social, cultural and economic dimensions.

11. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Ho Chi Minh City.


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