Women's Political Leadership
Vietnam has a number of policies in place that promote women’s political leadership, such the Law on Gender Equality (2006) and the National Strategy on Gender Equality (2011-2020). The first objective of the National Strategy states that the percentage of women in the National Assembly and People's Councils at provincial, district and commune levels should be 30 percent in 2011-2015 and more than 35 percent in 2016-2020.
However, at present only 24 percent of National Assembly members are women, the lowest number since 1997, and only two of 22 government ministers are women. Although the proportion of female leaders is higher at the local level, People's Councils will also not achieve the target of 35 percent women’s representation without significant efforts.
Gender stereotyping is a major barrier to women standing for office and becoming political leaders. Research conducted by Oxfam shows that both men and women often prefer male leaders, and men are seen as more suitable for leadership positions because of the view that masculine characteristics are similar to the characteristics of a good leader. Research by Oxfam has also demonstrated the importance of the media in either reinforcing or challenging gender stereotypes and the impact the media has on policy makers and public opinion.
Challenging gender stereotypes
In an effort to address these gender stereotypes, Oxfam has implemented a multi-stakeholder project since 2014 to advocate for more active participation of women in political leadership in Vietnam. The objective is to ensure that the National Committee for the Advancement of Women, selected media outlets, gender organisations and networks, and the general public actively challenge gender stereotypes on women’s political leadership.
The project consists of two major components. The first concentrates on researching a number of topics related to women’s leadership, including public perceptions of women’s political leadership and how women’s leadership is portrayed in the media. Using this research, the second project component supports policy advocacy and campaigning aimed at creating a positive change in the attitude and behaviour of policy makers, the media and general public towards women who choose to run for national and local elected offices.
A series of policy dialogues and communication campaigns
During the lead-up to the 2016 elections, Oxfam has organised a series of debates on women’s political leadership on social media, involving roughly 10,000 social media users. Two regional policy dialogues have been held to discuss ways to encourage more women political leaders. Local communication campaigns have also targeted thousands of people and promoted the message that women can be successful political leaders. These campaigns have been strongly supported by many media agencies.
The government’s communication plan for the 2016 general election has been developed, focusing on two objectives. The first is to run a number of public campaigns that challenge gender stereotypes, thereby supporting female candidates. The second aim is for the National Committee for the Advancement of Women to issue guidance to its provincial committees on implementation of election communication plans, making sure local committees also focus on challenging gender stereotypes and increasing support for female candidates.
Our efforts to promote women’s political leadership build on Oxfam’s substantial experience in working with the media to challenge gender stereotypes and encouraging media reporting that promotes equal gender rights. It also complements other initiatives by Oxfam to advance women’s economic empowerment.
Project: Promoting women’s political leadership
Time frame: 2015-2018
Funding: Oxfam core funding