National Forum on Engaging Men and Boys in the Promotion of Gender Equality and Elimination of Gender-based Violence
Remarks by Mr Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam & Co-chair of the Informal Ambassadors and
Head of Agencies Gender Policy Coordination Group
on the Occasion of the 111th Anniversary of International Women’s Day 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be here to join the first ever National Forum on Engaging Men and Boys in the Promotion of Gender Equality and Elimination of Gender-based Violence on the occasion of the 111th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, and to see so many men in the audience. Congratulations to ISDS, GBVNet, UN Women and Australian Aid. International Women’s Day is, indeed, an appropriate occasion to have such an important milestone event and I am very pleased to be the first male speaker at it, representing both the United Nations in Viet Nam here as well as the Informal Ambassadors and Heads of Agencies Gender Policy Coordination Group which I co-chair with Her Excellency the Ambassador of Mexico. With the active participation of men together with women and other genders, I have high hopes for a faster journey for Viet Nam towards achieving the gender equality goal and other related gender targets in the Sustainable Development Goals agenda by 2030; bringing greater opportunity and benefit for both women and men, girls and boys, as we collectively foster a more sustainable socio-economic development for all in Viet Nam in the future.
We know that around the world Violence Against Women and Children has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now referred to as the Shadow Pandemic. School closures and financial and food insecurity for families have heightened the risk of domestic violence for women and children, and also, of sexual exploitation and harassment in both online and offline settings.
What is important for us to realize is that even before COVID-19 started, Violence Against Women and Children was already widespread in Viet Nam and the world.
- In Viet Nam, we know from the recent 2nd 2019 National Study on Violence Against Women, that nearly 2 in 3 women (63 percent) have experienced either physical, sexual, emotional, or economic violence in their lifetime, as a result, partly, of controlling behaviors by their husband or intimate partners.
- And even more concerning is that 90 percent of those who experienced physical and/or sexual violence by husbands or intimate partners did not seek help.
- Violence against women and children does not only affect the individuals that experience it, but has incredible costs for communities and society, including in terms of loss of public well-being, health and safety, educational achievement, productivity, and law enforcement. It also has serious financial and budgetary costs. It has been calculated that Viet Nam experiences a productivity loss of over 100 billion VND due to domestic violence, equivalent to 1.8 percent of its 2018 GDP.
- Violence Against Women and Children is rooted in attitudes and behaviors favoring men, which tolerate violence as an acceptable way to solve conflict. Such attitudes are deeply engrained in culture and social norms, and we all have a role to play in changing these harmful attitudes and behaviors. Violence Against Women and Children is unacceptable and needs to stop!
Now, I would like to especially call for the attention of all the men participating in this Forum. If you are here today, you clearly care about this topic. I urge you to take further steps after leaving this event: raise your voice when you witness any acts of discrimination and violence against women or children; lead by example showing respect for women and girls; share domestic and care work with the women in your household; join the gender equality and women’s empowerment movement if you haven’t already done so; and inspire and engage other men and boys to do all of the above.
I know that many of you are already gender advocates participating in efforts to transform social norms, behavior, and gender stereotypes that perpetuate discrimination and inequality in addition to exemplifying non-violent behavior towards women and children at home and in public spaces. Remember that in your day-to-day life, you have many roles with respect to women and girls as colleagues, husbands, fathers, brothers, and friends. Your voice and active roles will be essential in promoting gender equality, especially in preventing violence against women and girls and supporting women and children survivors of violence.
I hope this National Forum will create an open space to exchange our experience and practices as male advocates and as change agents and to provide momentum, more energy and inspiration which will result in shortening and accelerating the path to achieving gender equality in Viet Nam.
I wish you all a very successful event! It is unfortunate that I cannot stay because of another event I have shortly but I wanted to be here personally to convey this message. This is an important historic event for Viet Nam – the first of its kind – and I certainly hope it won’t be the last.
Thank you. Xin Cam On.