Gender equality or Gender equity and climate change in Vietnam: focus on water issues

Figure 1. Cover of the report (Source: MCRP website)

The report “Gender equality/gender equity and climate change in Vietnam: achievements, gaps in policy, challenges, and recommendations” covers all aspects of climate change in the standard of living of people in Vietnam, such as agriculture, energy, and food security, water, etc. The report highlighted the vital role of women and girls in the climate resilience journey, which provided thorough points of view of the impacts of climate change on women and girls directly and indirectly. In this article, Gemus Nordic Consulting only wrapped up information related to water and gender as our main focus.

  1. Overview of gender, climate change and water in Vietnam

Many research highlighted that climate change does not have gender-neutral. All genders are being impacted by climate change in different ways. Specifically, in Vietnam, climate change is gender sensitivity, while Vietnamese women and girls are using water the most. Water is being used in household activities, including food production for the household and small farming scale, while men use water in bigger scale activities, such as commercial food production, and farming[1].

In a developing country like Vietnam, the stereotype of men earning money, and women taking care of the house is limiting the opportunities to learn, be educated, and stand for themselves of women and girls. During the war period when men were away from home, women had to look after their children and old people, fed their families, fed the soldiers, etc. When men died due to the war, women still had to find a way out for their families and took the responsibilities of men in the house. Similar things happen in the current stable political situation in Vietnam. Poverty and extreme weather conditions are pushing men away from home while women are under more visible and invisible pressures of feeding the family. Vietnamese women, especially women in the rural areas, are more dependent on the decisions of men and are counted for uncountable responsibilities by families and societies. Water is one of the most important things that women need to take care of.

Water plays a vital role in the daily life of rural people in Vietnam. However, water will be impacted the most by climate change. The change in water-related issues due to climate change may increase more pressure on women and girls, who are in need of clean water. However, the solutions to tackle climate change in the water sector are under-discussed at the authorities’ level where the voice of women is lacking[2].

2. The results of national strategy in climate resilience in water-related issues for the period of 2011-2020.

National Strategy in Climate change for the period of 2011-2020 stated one out of four main focuses in this national strategy is “food security, energy security, water resources security, zero hunger, reduce poverty rate, gender equality, social security, social healthcare, increase the standard of living and natural resources conservation“. However, regard to the report from UNDP, 60% of women don’t know about climate change, while this rate in men is only 36%[3]. The information sources of women come mostly from daily news on radio and TV during lunch break or dinner time (around 7 p.m). However, the information during these time slots mainly focuses on national and international updates rather than giving frequently information about climate change. Even though the weather forecast program starts mentioning climate change, the amount of information is briefly. On the other hand, men are sent to training classes and meetings hosted by local authorities or have more opportunities to catch up with information related to climate change. This information is not normally shared with women and girls, who are affected directly by climate change. They are being excluded from getting chances to understand and facilitated changes. The decision-makers are mostly on the government level, where men are still taking the majority.

There were some programs that promoted gender equality where women and girls are the main objectives such as The Clean water and sanitation 2012-2018 for eight provinces in the Red River Delta. Or, the extension of The Clean water and sanitation for rural areas in the Northern mountain, Tay Nguyen, and the central area of South Vietnam achieved some positive results. However, the results of these programs highlighted that (i) until 2019, only 20,1% of households that have clean water supplied are women-led, (ii) only 45% total population living in rural areas have access to clean water, (iii) only 3% of under-poverty families get access to clean water, while this rate is 43% for richer families in the same rural areas, and (iv) women-led families were unfairly excluded due to low-income status (at this point, we understand that the author would like to mention as some women-led families were holding a low-income status, while the priority is given to under-poverty families).

Every year after the environmental extreme events (e.g. flood, drought, etc,), the rate of people having diarrhea and intimacy infection is increasing. There are about nine thousand people die due to polluted water and poor sanitation conditions, about 250 thousand people have diarrhea, and approximately 200 thousand people diagnosed with cancer, which polluted water is one of the main reasons[4]. During the period of water exploration and water management, the idea of gender equality has been missing in all documents, including technicals, policies, etc. The number of women leaders in the water sector decreases from national to local levels. Some leaders at the local levels have a blurred vision of gender equality. They assume that the Women’s Community should take responsibility for the gender equality activities. Thus, it is hard to promote gender equity towards gender equality if the policies, and regulations are not consistent.

3. Gaps in national policy

In the updated version of the Environmental Protection Law in 2020, there are six sections mentioned about adapting to climate change. Gender equality is only mentioned in the Environmental Protection Regulation (Section 4), which states that environmental protection activities should harmonize with social security, children’s rights, gender equality, and human rights to living in a clean environment. However, the gender equality regulations should be combined in the content of the law, rather than being mentioned separately.

Referring to the previous presentation of Ms Truong Mai Hoa (MONRE) in our last discussion in March, the information about gender equality was missing in the planning of the new Water Law which will be submitted to the government in 2023. Only new updates on technologies topics, while non-tech topics are mentioned in a general way. More detail can be read here.

4. Existing in applying gender equality in real life

At the moment, there are many localities that are implementing national criteria from 2011 to 2020 for gender equality mechanically. Despite the fact that gender equality in different areas by areas, they are applying the solutions regardless of the condition of the area, which leads to the unsuccessfully and inconsistently implementation of the national gender equality instructions.

Specifically, gender equality is not yet being mentioned anywhere in some areas, such as water management. Leaders and managers level are lacking knowledge about gender equality and the importance of counting gender equality in the actions to adapt to climate change. The current situation in Vietnam is that the responsible departments for preparing climate change strategy are missing the responsible person or team for gender equality and vice versa. The main driving reason, which was mentioned in the report, is that all departments are lacked further training, workshops, or consulting services directly and indirectly to flexible harmonize climate change and gender equality.

Moreover, since the climate change department is recently established at a different management level, the limited human resources are the issue that needs to be solved first. The funding for climate change projects is increasing, however, the funding for gender equality issues is remaining unclear.

5. Recommendations from Gemus Nordic Consulting to all potential partners

As a consulting firm working as a bridge to connect Finland and Vietnam in the water, environment, IT and HR sectors, we have seen the issues from both countries and raised our concerns about water-related issues and gender equality/gender equity. Gender equality is the end result while gender equity is to correct the historical wrongs that left women behind[5]. Based on this report, we assume that the meaning of the word “Bình đẳng giới in the title of the report are mentioned both gender equality and gender equity.

In Europe in general and in Finland in particular, gender balance is an issue being discussed almost every day. Women leaders are still missing in every department, and together we would like to promote the fight for women in Vietnam together with Finland. Finland is on the way to change and Vietnam can go alongside Finland.

We are proud that our team consists of women as the majority. We have contact with women decision-makers in water sectors from Vietnamese authorities, while we are receiving a lot of support from men leaders from different roles in water-related topics. And, we would like to open the call for all partners, who are interested in joining our journey.

We are currently seeking active partners to join us in different projects to empower women and girls to actively adapt to climate change in developing countries. If you would like to join us, please kindly contact us via email: [email protected]. Together with you, we create the impacts.

This article is a summary of the report “Gender equality/Gender equity and climate change in Vietnam: achievements, gaps in policy, challenges, and recommendations” by Phan Nguy Truong, a private consultant for the Mekong Delta Climate Resilience Programme (MCRP 2019-2025). Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Cofinanced by: Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO). Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)​​​​​​​. Cooperation agency: Ministry of Construction (MOC), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, and 13 provinces in Mekong Delta River. Access via: https://mcrp.mard.gov.vn/DocLib/Pages/sdf.aspx on May 5, 2022.

Other references:

  • [1] https://www.gendercc.net/gender-climate.html
  • [2] IUCN and Oxfam. 2018. Gender and water governance in the Mekong region
  • [3] UNDP. Opportunities to empower women with enhanced access to climate information services for transformative adaptation actions in Viet Nam’s agricultural sectors- Technical brief.
  • [4] T. T. Tuyet Hanh et al. 2020. Viet Nam Climate Change and Health Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment, 2018,” Environment Health Insights, vol. 14, Jun. 2020, DOI: 10.1177/1178630220924658.
  • [5] Pipeline Equity. 2018. Access via: https://www.pipelineequity.com/voices-for-equity/gender-equity-vs-gender-equality/. Access on May 6, 2022.

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