Three non-governmental organisations in Vietnam - the Management and Sustainable Development Institute (MSD), Saigon Children’s Charity (saigonchildren) and Capacity Building and Support Center for Women and Children (CSWC) - have joined hands to launch the “You are not alone” campaign to support children orphaned by COVID-19 – the hidden victims of the pandemic.

The “You are not alone” campaign aims to support disadvantaged children orphaned by COVID-19 within the networks of participating organisations, as well as extending support towards the wider community through an open application system where any orphaned child outside their existing networks can seek help.

According to estimates from HCM City Department of Education and Training, in Ho Chi Minh City alone, 1,517 children at all levels of education have been orphaned by COVID-19 in the past few months. This number is much higher when considering all the children not included in the education system, and in other provinces and cities of the country. In combination with governmental support, participation of NGOs specializing in supporting children is essential to the transparent and efficient concentration and allocation of resources.

Children losing a parent are at risk of serious psychological trauma, which, without proper support, can have serious long-term impacts on their mental wellbeing and curtail their chances of success later on in life. In particular, children with families already in difficult financial circumstances, who have now lost the main provider for the family, will require material support along with long-term commitment towards education and emotional support.

“You are not alone” will focus not only on providing financial support to the children, but will also provide mental support and guidance. Combining the diverse experiences and expertise in social work, the participating organisations will be able to aid children in coping with the traumas of bereavement, provide responsible counselling on issues surrounding life and education, encourage and assist children in their personal development, and create a safety net to support these children in the absence of their parent. In essence, the collaboration between participating organisations will help these children overcome the psychological shock and trauma of losing a parent, and prevent this tragedy from affecting the child’s potential.

Vietnamese university's President elected to Francophone University Agency’s governing board

President of the Vietnam National University, Hanoi (VNU) Le Quan was elected to the governing board of the Francophone University Agency (AUF) at the agency’s 18th General Assembly meeting, according to VNU.

The governing board is the highest executive body of the AUF, consisting of 18 members representing 10 regions whose members speak partly or entirely French language. It has the function of approving policies and strategic orientations of the AUF.

VNU President Quan is the only representative of the Asia-Pacific region to join the Board of Directors. Quan’s participation in the board is hoped to contribute to the internationalization process of higher education in the region, in Vietnam and at the VNU, and further promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation between partners in the Francophone bloc.

Established in Montreal, Canada in 1961, the AUF is a multilateral organization that supports cooperation and solidarity among university institutions that use French as a language for teaching, especially those in French-speaking countries in Africa, Arab Saudi, Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. It now groups over 1000 members from 120 countries.

The AUF established its Asia-Pacific regional office in Hanoi in 1993. The agency and VNU have cooperated in training, research, exchange of lecturers and students.

The VNU has carried out several cooperation activities with the AUF. As VNU President, Quan has participated in many Francophone-related activities, and is Vice President of Vietnam - France Friendship and Cooperation Association. /.

Russia newspaper spotlights Vietnam’s responsible contributions to UN

Vietnam's role in the international arena and its responsible contributions to the United Nations (UN) were highlighted in an article published by Russia’s leading e-newspaper Infox.ru on September 24.

The article by Grigory Trofimchuk, an expert on international affairs, highly valued the role, international position, as well as outstanding achievements of Vietnam in recent years, and spotlighted the effective and active working programme of President Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the UN General Assembly.

It mentioned President Nguyen Xuan Phuc's proposal at the high-level general debate of the 76th UN General Assembly on practical solutions such as removing barriers that hinder global vaccine supplies, comprehensively promoting trade cooperation to accelerate post-pandemic economic recovery, enhancing digital transformation, and increasing labour productivity and competitiveness and sustainability of economies.

It praised Vietnam's determination and strong commitment in responding to climate change and carbon emissions, and promoting sustainable green economic development as stated by the President at the high-level open debate of the UN Security Council on Climate Security on September 23 in New York.

According to the article, Vietnam's commitment has been clearly reflected in its responsible actions in recent years.

One of those actions is the Vietnamese Government’s initiative to plant 1 billion trees between now and 2025, which can absorb about 3 percent of harmful emissions, the article said.

In his article, Trofimchuk also noted Vietnam's breakthrough proposals at the UN Food Systems Summit.

As a country with a climate favourable for year-round farming, along with its agricultural experience over thousands of years, Vietnam knows how to allocate labour in the new food era, he said.

Vietnam's agricultural industry has entered a digital era with its goal of developing qualified staff who master high technology, and this is a necessary condition for the Southeast Asian country to develop sustainably in the face of global economic and financial instability.

Regarding Vietnam's role in the international arena, the article said that Vietnam has reached a new height, which is clearly reflected in its contributions as a non-permanent member of the UNSC in the 2020-2021 term when the world is facing many difficulties, as well as to ASEAN’s activities./.

New coronavirus hotspot detected in northern Vietnam

The northern province of Ha Nam is becoming a new coronavirus hotspot in northern Vietnam as clusters of infections have been detected over the past few days.

Tens of local people have been exposed to the virus since the first case was reported in Phu Ly city on September 19, according to the provincial Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

Data from the Ha Nam CDC show at least 27 teachers and pupils of kindergartens, primary and lower secondary schools have tested positive for the virus.

The Ha Nam leadership imposed social distancing on Phu Ly city, starting from September 23, in order to halt the spread of the virus to the wider community.

It also established a 300-bed field hospital in Phu Ly city to treat COVID-19 patients under the 3-tiered treatment model.  

Local residents were required to stay home and only to go out for food, medicine or other essential services.  

Pupils were also ordered to stay home and access distance learning offered by teachers.  

Ha Nam had controlled the coronavirus outbreak for weeks and allowed students to return to school for a new school year in early September.

Experts fear the number of infections may rise in the coming days as all teachers and students had gone to school before the first case was recorded.

Start-up business in Bac Ninh Province grateful for provincial support

Chu Văn Đạo in his rice milling workshop, where he has invested in modern machines. 

The trend of youth business start-ups in Bắc Ninh Province has grown rapidly in recent years, thanks to the support of the provincial Youth Union.

As a result, many jobs have been created and many more young people are attracted by the opportunity to start their own business. 

Chu Văn Đạo, 30, in Cầu Gạo Yên Phú Commune, Yên Phong District, is one of the success stories. He borrowed capital to invest in his family’s rice processing business.

Đạo, who has a passion for technology, graduated from the Hà Nội University of Industry in 2006. At first, he borrowed VNĐ600 million (US$26,300) to buy new rice processing machines, such as milling machines, husk separators, threshing machines and a polishing machine. 

Then, with confidence and acumen, he went to agents, stores and supermarkets to introduce his products to the market. His business has been growing ever since. 

Customers always demand a high quality of rice, so, along with looking for high-quality rice paddies, Đạo continues to invest in more modern machinery to continuously improve the quality of his products.

Early this year he learned about the start-up fund for young people of the province and applied for a loan of VNĐ700 million (US$30,700) to buy more husk separators.

Đạo said there were many stages in the rice milling process.

First is paddy threshing; then separating husks, cleaning and polishing the rice before finally, the product goes through packaging lines.

Modern production lines have helped to considerably increase the quality of rice products, he said.

With the desire to promote the special Yên Phụ sticky rice of his homeland, Đạo bought all the rice he could from local farmers, to process and sell to rice agents throughout the country.

Talking about the purpose of the business start-up fund, Đạo said: “For young people, the biggest hurdles to starting a business are capital and experience.”

“Having access to the province’s youth start-up fund, with low-interest rates of 5 per cent per year and 5-year terms, helped me to feel secure in producing and getting rich legitimately,” Đạo said.

At present, his family’s workshop mills 20 tonnes of rice per day, generating a profit of VNĐ500 million (US$22,000) every year.

His business has created jobs for 5 employees, who are paid a monthly salary of VNĐ9 million (US$400) each.

Like Đạo, Nguyễn Công Trung, director of Thành Đạt Ltd., Company in Yên Phong District’s Yên Trung Commune, was successful in finding a new direction for his business.

Trung knew that Bắc Ninh is a developed industrial province with thousands of businesses and companies established, so the demand for office furniture was very large.

He decided to get into the market, investing in machinery and importing wood-making materials.

In 2016, he borrowed VNĐ500 million (US$22,000) from parents and friends and opened a workshop to produce office furniture.

Talking about the first days of starting up the business, Trung said: “I faced many difficulties due to a lack of capital and experience. No customers knew about my products.”

“The products were defective and contracts were cancelled. I had to deal with many things at the same time,” Trung said.

“But I always kept in my mind: ‘no pain, no gain’,” he said.

He learned from more experienced business people to improve his product quality, and took advantage of social networks such as Zalo and Facebook to market his products effectively.

Last year, he got a loan of VNĐ1 billion (US$44,000) from the province’s youth start-up fund.

He built 300 sq.m more of workshop space, and imported more raw materials for production.

“The loan was so helpful, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made importing new raw materials and transporting products difficult,” said Trung.

“With this money, I could import more raw materials and I am able to receive larger orders,” he said.

At present, his profits are VNĐ1 billion a year from the workshop, and he has created jobs for 12 labourers with incomes of VNĐ9 million per month.

He plans to expand his scale of production soon and enter the home furniture market.

Motivation for young people

On the youth business start-up fund in Bắc Ninh Province, Secretary of the Provincial Youth Union Nguyễn Đức Sâm said that the movement had created groundbreaking results in the socio-economic development of the region.

Start-up projects are quite diverse, in all industries and fields.

Up to now, most of the projects had been well disbursed, creating regular and stable jobs for over 400 employees, he said.

In addition, the projects also helped unite young people and develop Youth Unions in rural areas and industrial zones, Sâm said.

In the three years since the launch of the movement, 90 different start-up projects have been funded, to a total of VNĐ60 billion (US$2.6 million).

To further motivate young local people to start new businesses, the provincial Youth Union has accelerated the establishment of youth start-up clubs in many districts, in order to nurture and support business ideas.

The Youth Union has also organised training courses and provided consultants on capital lending and business branding.

Sâm added that because of the huge demand for start-up capital, the union would ask the province to increase the entrusted capital amount through the provincial Bank for Social Policies, allowing more young people to access the start-up capital. ­

Muong ethnic girl pursues her dream through university study

On Monday, Phạm Thị Thuận, a Mường ethnic girl from a mountainous village in central Thanh Hóa Province, travelled more than 100 kilometres to Thanh Hóa City to complete the admission test at Hồng Đức University.

Thuận has beaten thousands of candidates to be a student of History and Pedagogy at the university, with a relatively high score of 29.75 in total.  

Becoming a history teacher has always been her dream, and her achievement is the result of both tireless effort and the strong determination she has shown since her childhood.   

Thuận was born into a very poor family. Her father suffers from contorted limbs, and her mother has weak mental health. Both of them are illiterate, but they know the importance of education for their children.

Her mother is the breadwinner of the family. She worked in the rice field and collected scraps to get money to send Thuận and her little brother to school. She worked all day long and only got back home at night, but didn’t always manage to get enough food for the whole family.

Thuận got used to hard work from an early age. After school, she was hired to herd cattle for some villagers and was given boxes of rice as payment. 

When Thuận’s mother got a job at the toothpick factory in Hà Nội in 2016, Thuận became the woman of the family. She learnt how to properly spend the money the mother sent to the family and the supportive money the father received every month. She prepared food, cooked meals, bought medicine for her father and helped her little brother do his homework.

Thuận was always busy, going to school all day and spending her free time on household chores, but she never let go of her dream to become a history teacher.

She spared no effort in performing well at school and was always top of the class during her 12 years at school. Thuận said whenever she felt tired and discouraged, she borrowed some good books to recharge herself and boost her spirit. 

Thuận said the harsh years of her childhood helped her realise one big thing: only education could change her life forever.

“I didn’t want to fall into the vicious life of dropping out of school, getting married, having children and living in poverty. Therefore, I always told myself not to give up,” she said.

The day she was informed that she had been accepted to Hồng Đức University Thuận said she was happy, but also worried. She had reached her long-cherished dream but was now worried about financing her university study.

“Mom cried on the phone, saying that she was sorry for her helplessness, and then my dad cried, too,” she said.

Luckily, some organisations and benefactors heard about her situation and have offered to help her pursue her dream. 

Dr Lê Hoằng Bá Huyền, Vice-Rector of Hồng Đức University, said that the school have contacted Thuận to ensure she receives support ahead of admission time.

The school has offered Thuận the opportunity to stay in the school dormitory for free. Furthermore, the school has contacted known benefactors, along with the school's study promotion fund, to provide financial support for Thuận. She would also be eligible to join social skills at school.

After graduation, Thuận will also be given an internship opportunity, if her academic performance allows it. 

Hotel/quarantine model offers a lifeline for many in tourism

Converting hotels and resorts into quarantine centres has offered many hospitality firms a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic has hit Việt Nam's tourism sector hard and among the most affected was the hotel industry. Hotel occupancy rates in Hà Nội, Đà Nẵng and HCM City dipped to the lowest levels in the last ten years, according to a recent survey by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. 

Occupancy rates among hotels with three stars and more in Hà Nội have dropped to a dismal 30 per cent at US$81 per night on average in 2020, compared to a 74 per cent at $113 per night pre-pandemic. The first half of 2021 saw a further decline to 25 per cent at $72 per night. 

Things have been even worse for Đà Nẵng, the country's largest tourism hub. Occupancy rates fell from an average of 61 per cent at $108 per night in 2019 to 17 per cent at $54 per night in 2020. The first half of 2021's figure was reported at 11 per cent at $49 per night. 

HCM City was a rare exception with its hotel occupancy rate increased by 5 per cent from its lowest to 18 per cent at $69 per night during the second quarter of 2021. It has been largely credited to the conversion of the city's hotels and resorts to quarantine centres for foreign arrivals. Twenty-five hotels in the city with over 3,000 rooms have been converted for said purpose, with most of them being located in downtown districts and areas near the Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport.  Notably, some hotels have reported an occupancy rate of 78 per cent or greater since the city's authority gave the green light. 

It has been a welcoming sign for the sector, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. While just about 10 per cent of the city's hotel managed the conversion, more might be able to follow suit in the future to meet demand for quarantine space and COVID-19 prevention, said Troy Griffiths, deputy managing director of Savills Vietnam. 

There has been rising demand for quarantine space among foreign diplomats, experts and flight crews, who frequently entered Việt Nam, according to Griffiths.  

Hà Nội has been overseeing 20 hotels/quarantine centres with a combined capacity of 1,600 rooms and HCM City 34 hotels/quarantine centres with a combined capacity of 3,000 rooms, respectively. 

Griffiths said he was optimistic about the sector's recovery during the last months of the year. 

With 80 per cent of the sector's business made up of Vietnamese nationals and foreign residents living in Việt Nam, as soon as the virus can be put under control tourism can be expected to bounce back. The introduction of vaccine passports and promotion packages by hotels and resorts should be able to speed things along.

Messenger connects Vietnamese and world music

Being talented both in conducting an orchestra and playing both eastern and western musical instruments skilfully, young conductor Dong Quang Vinh (born in 1984) has been called a “messenger”, connecting Vietnamese and world music.

He has devoted himself to making the seemingly simple and rustic traditional bamboo instruments express academic music in an impressive and creative manner.

Dong Quang Vinh was born into a family with a rich tradition in arts. His father is Meritorious Artist Dong Van Minh, a performer and maker of traditional musical instruments, and his mother is Meritorious Artist Mai Thi Lai, former teacher of the string-instrument subject at the Vietnam National Academy of Music. Therefore, Vinh was familiarised early with traditional music.

When he was seven years old, the then conductor-to-be was taught by his parents about music theory and how to play traditional Vietnamese instruments. At the age of nine, he joined a regular course on the bamboo flute at the Vietnam National Academy of Music. Since then, Vinh has followed in his parents footsteps, performing folk instruments in many countries around the world, but he remembers the tour to six major cities in Japan the most. At that time, Dong Quang Vinh played the songs of the host country with the bamboo flute and t'rung (bamboo xylophone) of Vietnam. His performances received great applause from Japanese audiences. The 12-year-old boy began to realise that music is a miracle than can unite countries around the world together and that his country’s national music will affirm the position of Vietnamese music internationally.

Dong Quang Vinh started learning and practicing many kinds of traditional musical instruments. Besides improving his performance skills, he also made music notation and re-wrote and composed many artworks the Department of Traditional Musical Instruments under the Vietnam National Academy of Music. He then was sent to study orchestra conducting at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in China in 2004.

After nine years of successfully completing the graduate and master training programmes, the young conductor refused many opportunities to develop his career in the foreign country to return home with the aspiration to do valuable things for Vietnamese music. In addition to the role of main conductor of the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet Orchestra and a lecturer specialising in orchestra conducting at the Vietnam National Academy of Music, Dong Quang Vinh has been a conductor at many domestic and international concerts. He has aspired to bring national music to the world and make academic music closer to the Vietnamese public. Therefore, he formed the orchestra “Suc song moi” (New Vitality), the only orchestra playing symphony music using the bamboo musical instruments of Vietnam.

Dong Quang Vinh shared that bamboo has an image attached to Vietnamese people for thousands of generations. The sound from the bamboo musical instruments is the soul of Vietnamese music. Therefore, Dong Quang Vinh has devoted himself to finding ways to promote the national instruments even though he knew this path would not be smooth. Despite being cruder and simpler than many Western musical instruments, bamboo musical instruments are not burdened with technological factors so they have the advantage of being able to express pure emotions.

Vietnam’s music has also long been famous for plucked instruments such as dan tranh (Vietnamese 16-string zither), dan nguyet (two-chord guitar), ti ba (four-chord lute) and tam thap luc (a zither with thirty-six strings). If the string instruments are considered the soul of Western music, the plucked instruments are the soul of Vietnamese traditional music. According to Dong Quang Vinh, with skillful application, Vietnam’s national music will go a long way towards conquering international friends. However, while Western musical instruments have been used and innovated upon for hundreds of years for their harmony in a symphony orchestra, Vietnamese traditional instruments have not experienced such a process.

In order to arrange Vietnam’s bamboo instruments such as t’rung, bamboo flute, khen (panpipe), pi (a kind of bamboo flute of the Thai ethnic minority people), dan tranh, tam thap luc, dan Nguyet and drums together to play symphonies bearing a modern spirit, Dong Quang Vinh had to work rigorously and diligently, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of each kind of instrument in order to improve, adjust and re-write the works. Fortunately, during his journey, Vinh has received great support in improving the instrument from his father.

It is difficult to play symphony with bamboo musical instruments and the combination between these and western instruments is much easier. For example, violin has a wider interval than Vietnam’s dan nhi (two-chord fiddle) although they both belong to the string family. Regarding wind instruments, many western instruments are in the woodwind and ottoni/brass families, while only bamboo flutes are popular in Vietnam. In addition, Vietnam’s dan tranh is usually for only pentatonic scale, so it is difficult to play it in timbre or semitone. These challenges forced Dong Quang Vinh to study deeply the musical features and styles of each instrument to find out the best interval for the instruments in a piece of music. Accordingly, his "two in one" role as both conductor and performer came into full play.

The worthy reward for that serious artistic spirit were classical music concerts where Western jazz and chamber music resounded impressively through bamboo musical instruments. Dong Quang Vinh and “Suc song moi” orchestra have created cultural dialogues by music, contributing to building a solid bridge connecting Vietnamese and world music.

Preserving Oc Eo - Ba The special national relic site

Following the direction of the An Giang Provincial People's Committee, the Management Board of Oc Eo Cultural Relic announced and introduced the entire contents of the plans for preserving and restoring the Oc Eo - Ba The special national relic site, as shared by Nguyen Huu Gieng, Director of the Management Board of Oc Eo Cultural Relic, on September 7.

According to Decision No. 115/QD-TTg, dated January 23, 2021, the scope of the general plan to preserve and restore the Oc Eo - Ba The special national relic site covers an entire area of 433.2 hectares, as identified in the Special National Monument Ranking Profile.

The objective of the planning is to protect the discovered relics and relics of the Oc Eo - Ba The special national relic site; research, survey, expand the scope of archaeology to complete, edit records, and supplement and clarify values related to relics, especially in relation to relics and archaeological sites related to Oc Eo culture and civilisation.

At the same time, the plan also aims to preserve, embellish, and promote the value of the Oc Eo - Ba The special national relic site to become an archaeological research area towards fully identifying and clarifying the values of the brilliant Oc Eo civilisation that once existed, thus contributing to the socio-economic development, culture and tourism of Thoai Son District and An Giang Province.

In addition, it also contributes to connecting the relic with important destinations of An Giang Province and the Mekong Delta region to form specific tourism products in terms of history - culture, tourism river ecology, rural tourism, and tourism thematic archaeology of Oc Eo culture.

Director Nguyen Huu Gieng emphasised that the planning for preserving and restoring Oc Eo - Ba The approved by the Prime Minister shows the close attention and direction of the Party and Government leaders to the conservation and promotion of the value of the Oc Eo - Ba The special national relic site, contributing to the socio-economic development, culture, and tourism of An Giang Province in particular and the whole country in general.

This provides the legal basis to remove obstacles and limitations compared with the previous planning; is an effective tool for planning management and urban development investment in the area of Oc Eo Town and Thoai Son District, An Giang Province.

It is expected that in November 2021, An Giang Province will hold a ceremony to announce Decision No. 115/QD-TTg approving the planning for preserving and restoring the Oc Eo - Ba The special national relic site.

Oc Eo - Ba The relic site was recognised as a special national relic site in September 2012. 

Gender gap progress at risk via pandemic

The pressures from work and lowered income, combined with the burden of taking care of children and housework, lie especially heavy on Vietnamese women during the current social distancing period, rendering many of them collateral victims of the pandemic.

Ngoc Nguyen, a 33-year-old living in Hanoi’s Cau Giay district, received a master’s degree from the University of Sydney at the end of 2019. For most of the past two years she has been taking care of children and doing housework. When she first returned to her country, she received many attractive job offers, but the pandemic and prolonged periods of social distancing caused her to temporarily put aside her dreams.

“Since the outbreak, I have not been able to send my children to school. No company allows employees to take long leave, so I have had to change jobs several times over the past year. My income is higher than my husband’s, but if a person has to stay home to take care of children, that person will always have to be me,” shared Ngoc.

Ngoc’s case is a common one in Vietnam. According to the report of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on gender and the labour market from March, women spend an average of 20.2 hours per week cleaning the house, washing clothes, cooking, shopping, and taking care of the family while men spend only 10.7 hours. Nearly a fifth of men spend no time doing housework.

These numbers are likely to increase even more during the pandemic as working from home becomes more commonplace. Experts fear this will have lasting effects in eradicating stereotypes and minimising the gender gap.

Valentina Barcucci, economist at the ILO Vietnam said, “Inequality against women in job quality and career development also stems from the dual responsibility they have to take.”

This is not only a problem for low- and middle-income women, but even businesswomen face similar pressure. The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs released in early 2021 shows that COVID-19 is creating more responsibilities for women in many economies around the world. Around 23 per cent of female business leaders said they spend six hours or more per day doing housework and taking care of the family, compared with 11 per cent of men.

The report also points out that pressure to take care of children is one of the many factors making women vulnerable, especially in economies like Vietnam, South Korea, and Thailand.

Employment and income are the most negative impacts that the pandemic has on women. Nguyen Thi Thuy, a 25-year-old woman from Hanoi’s Hadong district, said that she has been interviewed seven times in the past three months but has not yet received a job.

Previously, Thuy was in the fashion business, but the pandemic also forced her to stop her loss-making business to find a job with a more stable income.

Thuy said, “Every company hires only a few employees while the number of people applying is too large, so I know there are not many opportunities for me.”

According to data from the General Statistics Office of Vietnam, out of the 1.3 million workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic in 2020, up to 51.5 per cent are women, most of them are of working age.

The ILO assesses that women are at higher risk of being laid off or subject to reduced working hours during the pandemic, especially in sectors such as accommodation, food and beverages, and other service industries.

“Although employment growth in 2021 is higher for women than for men, it will not be enough to return women to pre-pandemic employment levels,” the ILO’s latest report on the impact of the pandemic on the labour market confirmed.

Le Giang Nhung, deputy director of Bac Ha Tea Co., Ltd. in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai, admitted that some employees will have to quit in the near future if the company’s export orders continue to decrease. Nhung’s company currently employs eight female workers from local ethnic minorities. Nhung helped the workers purchase new motorbikes, buy smart TVs, and install more water heaters in their family bathrooms. But more than a year later, she herself feels helpless, as she is close to being forced to choose who can to stay and who will have to be let go.

Women around the world have made incredible strides in joining the workforce, battling for equal pay, and getting to the top of their professions, particularly in Vietnam where the female labour participation rate is almost level to men.

Despite this progress, Vietnamese women still face a variety of challenges in gaining equal access to work opportunities and development in their careers.

In Vietnam, there is visible gender disparity regarding overall labour force participation within different industries. For example, men are most often targeted in job adverts for highly professional or technical jobs such as engineering and IT, despite the fact that it is illegal to discriminate based on gender, according to the Labour Code 2012, which provides broad protections against gender discrimination in the workplace, requiring employers to observe the principle of equality in recruitment, employment, promotion, and remuneration.

 

Despite this, job adverts often use terms like “male candidates preferred”, “being physically fit”, and “single candidates will have an edge”.

Traditionally more risky occupations such as the military, plant machine operators, and building work are occupations overwhelmingly held by men. Men are also typically recruited for jobs requiring a lot of travel such as architects and drivers.

Women are rarely recruited in these fields because of traditional views that women are the primary caregivers and homemakers for their families. This is often used as an excuse to exclude women from jobs that are deemed unfit for them by men.

Meanwhile, occupations such as receptionists, secretaries, accountants, human resources, retail, care, and textiles are often dominated by women. According to the Vietnam country brief of the International Labour Organization (ILO), healthcare dominates the occupations that are mostly filled by women. Personal care workers, healthcare assistants, pharmacists, home-based personal workers are all typically female.

Though when it comes to uneducated women, they typically find themselves working in lower-paying vulnerable occupations in key export areas such as textiles, footwear, and seafood processing. Though employment vulnerability is widely reported by both women and men in Vietnam, women are overrepresented in certain types of lower-paying vulnerable occupations or “invisible” areas of informal employment such as migrant domestic workers, homeworkers, street sellers, and the entertainment business.

A recent study by the ILO has found that gender bias continues to affect women’s job advancement in Vietnam by preventing them from climbing the corporate ladder. In this study of enterprises in Vietnam, 63 per cent said they had women in supervisory management roles, 73 per cent said they had women in middle management positions, and a mere 15 per cent said they had women in top executive positions. This phenomenon where women are under-represented in management roles is characterised as the “leaky pipeline” since it occurs at the highest levels of management.

According to the survey, 54 per cent of executives and employees at 300 organisations agreed or strongly agreed that women with equivalent skills and qualifications have a harder time obtaining top management positions than men.

Another factor that is particularly harmful and penalising to career advancement or opportunities for women is when they become a mother, this penalisation is referred to as the motherhood penalty.

According to an article published in the American Journal of Sociology, mothers are penalised in comparison to non-mothers and males, with lower perceived competence and dedication, greater professional demands, a reduced probability of being hired and promoted, and lower suggested wages. This evidence suggests that being a mother results in workplace discrimination. Additionally, women continue to shoulder the majority of work as unpaid family caregivers.

Women’s labour market possibilities and incentives will continue to be hindered as long as institutions and regulations are formed or structured around conventional gender norms.

Recent initiatives should be commended, particularly the revision of the Labour Code adopted in November 2019 which addresses a number of areas where inequalities currently exist in the country. Some of these provisions address sexual harassment in the workplace, the gender pay gap, and also offer pregnant women and new mothers greater protection from discrimination.

Other new provisions in the Labour Code address a wide range of occupations and economic activities that were previously closed to women, ostensibly for their protection, are now open to female workers as well as narrowing the gender gap in retirement age from 55 to 60. 

Third Mong Ethnic Cultural Festival rescheduled to December

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has decided to organise the 3rd Mong Ethnic Cultural Festival 2021 in December instead of September as initially planned.

Earlier, the ministry has issued Decision 717/QD-BVHTTDL on the organisation of the festival in the northwestern mountainous province of Lai Chau. Accordingly, the festival will take place in September 2021 under the direction of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the People's Committee of Lai Chau province, in coordination with ministries, sectors, and units under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and 13 provinces where the Mong ethnic minority people live.

In a document which was sent to the People’s Committees of Lai Chau, Thai Nguyen, Lang Son, Bac Kan, Dien Bien, Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Hoa Binh, Cao Bang, Tuyen Quang, Ha Giang, Yen Bai and Dak Lak provinces, the ministry said the adjustment of the schedule was made to strictly implement the direction of the Government and the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 prevention and control measures as the pandemic has continued to develop complicatedly in many localities across the country.

The Mong Ethnic Cultural Festival aims to express the cultural honor of an ethnic group rich in cultural traditions, preserving and promoting the cultural identity of Mong people in a unified and diverse Vietnamese culture of 54 ethnic groups.

It will be an opportunity for the participating provinces to learn, exchange experience, raise awareness of administrations at all levels, branches and ethnic minorities about their responsibility in building and developing the Vietnamese culture and people to meet the requirements of sustainable national development; and introducing and promoting the traditional cultural values of the Mong ethnic group to domestic and international friends, contributing to tourism and economic development.

Diverse activities such as art performances of the Mong ethnic group, a show of ethnic clothes, introduction of cultural and tourism products, Famtrip, and an exhibition on the Mong ethnic culture, will be held.

A conference on investment, trade and tourism promotion of Lai Chau province, an exhibition showcasing cultural and tourism products as well as a photo exhibition on the land and people of Lai Chau are also expected to be organised within the framework of the event./.

People rush for cinnamon bark in protected Quảng Trị forest

Unemployed because of the coronavirus, people in the central province of Quảng Trị are heading to the forest to harvest cinnamon bark illegally. In some cases, they reportedly chopped down large cinnamon trees.

The illegal cinnamon exploitation was first detected in the communes of Đakrông District last month, said Trần Đại Đức, head of the district’s Forest Protection Division.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people became unemployed. Seeing the demand for cinnamon bark increasing, people, especially those living near the forest, entered it to collect cinnamon bark,” Đức said.

To get the bark, they have even chopped down cinnamon trees. Most of them have a trunk with a diameter of 20-30 cm.

The forest rangers and other agencies have detected at least four cases relating to illegal cinnamon bark trade and transport, seizing more than two tonnes of cinnamon bark last month, he said.

The forest rangers also caught six people red-handed chopping down trees in the forest in A Ngo Commune.

A resident told Người lao động (The Labourers) newspaper that wholesalers paid VNĐ 5,000 for a kilogram of fresh cinnamon bark. The price of dried bark is higher.

A person can collect 40-50 kg of fresh cinnamon bark if they spent a day in the forest.

Forest rangers have told residents to stop illegal cinnamon exploitation and trade, said Đức.

Local authorities have also tightening patrols and punishments for illegal cinnamon trade and transport.

According to Đakrong District’s Steering Committee for Forest Protection and Sustainable Forestry Development, illegal cinnamon exploitation has been seen in communes in the district including Hướng Nghiệp, A Ngo, Tà Long, Tà Rụt, A Bung and A Vao.

Nguyễn Hồng Phương, vice director of Quảng Trị Province’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, said that local authorities and forest managers had taken measures to better protect the cinnamon forest from illegal exploitation.

The authorised agencies have also tightened inspection of the trade of cinnamon bark at local enterprises and establishments.

“As a long-term solution, the province will introduce farming/production models to increase incomes and improve living conditions for people, especially those who live near the forest,” she said.

"Once people had a stable livelihood, they can help ensure sustainable and effective forest protection."

Thanks to firm roots, cinnamon trees grow well in infertile soil and steep hills. Forest cinnamon starts flowering after eight to ten years.

Normally, low cinnamon forests can be harvested when the trees are three-five years old. However, for high-quality products, cinnamon trees must be over 15 years old.

All parts of the cinnamon tree such as the bark, leaves, flowers, wood, and roots can be used. People mainly harvest cinnamon bark, cinnamon branches or leaves to dry or store as essential oils.

Việt Nam's cinnamon has long been known for its quality and flavour because it is rich in essential oil. The bark has a cinnamic acid content of about 75 per cent, while its leaf has a content of more than 50 per cent.

Both bark and leaf are used to produce essential oil for food and pharmaceutical industries. About 0.8 per cent of cinnamon's essential oil are contained in its leaf and 2.2 per cent in its bark.

Trà Vinh Province to rapidly improve irrigation to foster agriculture

The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Trà Vinh is speeding up dredging of 14 main irrigation canals with a total length of 125.3 km and expects to complete the work early next month.

Phạm Minh Truyền, director of the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the canals are in Châu Thành, Cầu Ngang, Tiểu Cần, Cầu Kè, and Trà Cú districts and the work would cost more than VNĐ90 billion (US$3.9 million).

They have bed widths of 3-12 metres and depths of 1.5 – 3 metres, and irrigate rice and vegetable fields and fruit orchards.

Nguyễn Trung Hoàng, deputy chairman of the province People’s Committee, said while the province has great potential for farming high-value crops, animals and seafood, insufficient infrastructure for agriculture and the impacts of climate change, including drought and saltwater intrusion mean the farm economy has yet to achieve its potential.

In 2021 – 25, besides prioritising dredging of irrigation canals and expanding irrigation systems, the province also plans to invest another VNĐ3.42 trillion ($149.3 million) in 50 agricultural infrastructure projects.

Trà Vinh plans to achieve agricultural production of VNĐ28.2 trillion ($1.23 billion) this year, a 3.5 per cent increase from last year, according to the department, producing one million tonnes of paddy and 260,000 tonnes of fruits.

It will also grow more than 51,650ha of vegetables and short-term cash crops.

In 2021- 25 it also targets switching to other crops on 8,084ha of unproductive rice fields or rotating between rice and aquatic species.

This year it encourages farmers to convert 1,550ha, thus increasing the total area under vegetables and other non-rice crops to 51,000ha.

Truyền, director of the agriculture department, said since 2017 10,647ha have been converted.

The switch has helped farmers increase their incomes by 1.2 – 7.6 times, he said.

The area under rice might have reduced but not output since farmers use advanced techniques, machinery and high-quality rice seeds, which has helped increase yield and quality.

The province plans to grow 200,000ha of rice with an average output of 1 – 1.2 million tonnes a year in 2025-30.

They include 2,000 -3,000ha of organic rice and 20,000 – 30,000ha of clean rice.

Authorities will encourage rice farmers to adopt Vietnamese good agricultural practices (VietGAP) standards, improve the efficiency of fertiliser use and reduce the use of pesticides and other chemicals to cut production costs, improve rice quality and food safety, and protect the environment, according to the department.

More new rice varieties with higher yields and quality and meeting export requirements will be grown.

Farmers are encouraged to use certified seeds.

In 2021 – 25 the province will also link up companies, co-operatives and individual farmers to ensure rice grown on a total of 4,850ha secures outlets.

It plans to restructure the number of rice crops grown in a year based on the conditions in each locality and their schedules to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

It plans to have 20,000ha of fruit orchards by 2025 and farmers earning an average income of VNĐ170 million ($7,400) per hectare per year.

The province grows grapefruit, orange, mango, rambutan, coconut, and others.

It is calling on investors to invest in producing high-quality fruit seedlings, making products from fruits and exporting fresh fruit and fruit-related products.

Better management crucial to reduce plastic waste

Amid the increase of plastic waste, especially plastic bags, it is necessary to strengthen the management of the waste as the effectiveness of the work has fallen far below the requirements.

According to the Vietnam Environment Administration under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, domestic solid waste has increased with a forecast rise of 10-16% each year in the near furture, with a higher ratio of undegradable waste, including plastic waste.

The Vietnam Plastic Association reported that the country has about 2,000 plastic firms with the total production of about 4 million tonnes per year, 36% of which is packaging plastics, including plastic bags, bottle and packages.

The use of undegradable and single-use plastic products has also increased in both Vietnam and the world.

Nguyen Thanh Nam from the Department of Waste Management under the Vietnam Environment Administration said that the number of plastic packages and bags released to the environment has been rising through years, while the classification and collection of waste has still limited in households, and the majority are released to the environment.

The Environment Protection Law clarifies the need to minimise, recycle and reuse plastic waste to prevent plastic pollution in oceans. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister issued Directive 33/CT-TTg on August 20, 2020 on strengthening management over reusing, recycling and minimising of plastic waste.

In late July this year, the Prime Minister also approved a project to improve plastic waste management in Vietnam, aiming to improve mechanisms, policies and legal regulations in the field.

Under the project, Vietnam targets 100% of environmentally-friendly plastic bags and packaging items used at shopping malls and supermarkets by 2025, while all tourism complexes, hotels and other lodging facilities do not use non-biodegradable plastic bags and single-use plastic products.

The country also aims to collect, reuse, recycle and treat 85% of plastic waste; and reduce the volume of plastic waste dumped to ocean by half.

Additionally, the project will gradually cut the production and consumption of non-biodegradable plastic bags and single-use plastic products in daily life; while raising awareness among organisations, enterprises and the community about the harmful effects of single-use plastic items to the environment, ecosystem and human health, and encouraging consumers to shift away from single-use and non-biodegradable plastics to eco-friendly alternatives.

It will campaign producers and distributors of single-use and non-biodegradable plastic products to shift to eco-friendly equivalents and promote the development and application of advanced technology in plastic waste management and manufacturing of environmentally-friendly products.

In the 2021-2026 period, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will apply various measures to strengthen management over plastic waste.

According to Vice Director of the Vietnam Environment Administration Nguyen Thuong Hien, the measures include completing regulations on plastic waste management, making assessments of the plastic collection situation, strengthening communications in the work, researching and applying technology in plastic waste management and environmental-friendly product production.

Meanwhile, tourism sites and facilities will have to commit to not using single-use plastic products, while the collection of plastic waste in coastal localities, beaches and tourist sites will be strengthened, along with the increase of inspection over the work.

Currently, the ministry as well as relevant ministries, sectors and localities are building plans with specific tasks for particular agencies under their management.

Vietnam Design Week 2020 to open in November

Vietnam Design Week 2021 is expected to kick off on November 15 with the theme "Awakening Tradition".

Co-organised by the Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies in coordination with many organisations, the event will take place in three cities: Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City.

The opening ceremony of the event is expected to take place at the creative space R8 Factory (Bo De, Long Bien District, Hanoi).

Accordingly, Vietnam Design Week 2021 is a programme to honour excellent Vietnamese products and designers in the fields of: communication design, furniture design, decoration design, costume design, and public design.

The highlight programme of Vietnam Design Week 2021 is the "Designed by Vietnam" contest, inspired by cultural traditions and folk knowledge to create highly applicable products bearing the value of the Vietnamese design brand.

Also within the framework of the programme, a series of activities including exhibitions, seminars, workshops, and performances will also feature the participation of many experienced and well-known designers in the design fields, aiming to encourage a change of thinking in exploitation, renewing traditional values, and promoting sustainable design trends; thereby promoting the development of the design industry in particular and the cultural and creative industry in Vietnam in general, while increasing the value of Vietnamese creative products in the international market. 

Local tourism development associated with ethnic culture preservation

In a special class in Than Uyên District in the northern province of Lai Châu, local artisans can be seen engrossed in teaching students the traditional dances and songs as well as how to play đàn tính, a handmade gourd lute.

Beginning on June 12, the class has attracted 80 students from three communes, Mường Cang, Hua Nà and Mường Kim, the majority of whom are children. They all share one thing in common: a passion for traditional Thái ethnic art and culture.

This photo taken in 2019 shows members of Than Uyên District's club of đàn tính-then singing. — Photo thanuyen.laichau.gov.vn
The class of then singing and Thái ethnic folk music is part of Than Uyên District’s resolution on promoting traditional cultures of ethnic groups in association with the development of community-based tourism over the next five years.

In addition to preserving and upholding the traditional cultures, the resolution also aims to improve the cultural and spiritual life of local people.

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic is still complicated, all participants of the class have to strictly comply with regulations on pandemic prevention and control, including wearing masks and social distancing.

Than Uyên District is home to 10 ethnic groups with diverse original cultural identities that are showcased through their costumes, architecture, customs and language.

Thái ethnic people account for more than 70 per cent of the district’s population, therefore, the cultural and spiritual life of the people in the district has been mostly influenced by Thái culture from songs, dances, folk games to cuisine.

In recent years, Than Uyên District authority has made great efforts to preserve the local original culture by restoring traditional festivals, establishing clubs for playing đàn tính and then singing as well as maintaining activities of local art troupes in recent years.

Many artisans have also joined these efforts, among them is Lò Văn Sơi from Mường Cang Commune.

Like many other artisans, Sơi was concerned about preserving the cultural legacy passed down from the Thái predecessors, which is at risk of falling into oblivion because of modernisation.

He said, then singing, which is accompanied with đàn tính, is a unique performing art of the Thái ethnic group.

“It is an art form that combines the beauty of human and nature, artistic values and spiritual elements," he said.

“The content of the songs expresses the wish for bumper crops, a peaceful, prosperous and happy life. Thái people in Mường Cang consider then singing and đàn tính as an indispensable spiritual ‘specialty’ of their life.”

Sơi added that it is his strong bond with his homeland that has helped him to understand, respect and preserve his ancestors’ culture that has nurtured his soul since a young age. He always makes time in his busy schedule to pass on his passion for folk songs and the traditional musical instrument to everyone, particularly the youth.

The artisan has also been collaborating with the Department of Culture and Information of Than Uyên District to develop the content for teaching traditional songs and dances to younger generations in the future.

Hearing the sound of đàn tính and then singing since birth, Hà Khánh Ly from Hua Nà Commune, a young member of the class, said that she had been proud of the cultural tradition of Thái people.

“I had difficulties in handling the instruments and the melodies at first, but artisans with great enthusiasm have helped me to improve my skills.

“I will make more efforts in studying to contribute to the conservation of national cultural values,” she added.

With the advantage of diverse cultural identities that have been well preserved by the local ethnic groups, Than Uyên District has great potential to develop community-based tourism.

To exploit such potential, the local authorities have organised a variety of activities that aim at both promoting a traditional culture of ethnic groups in association with the development of community-based tourism in the period 2020-25 in the district.

The district has regularly celebrated the Ethnic Culture and Sports Festival that includes many cultural activities like fairs, street festivals, ethnic cultural spaces or ethnic costume contest.

In particular, a tourism and cultural exchanging programme featuring hot air balloons was successfully held at the district early this year, attracting thousands of both locals and tourists from far and wide.

The local authorities have also made great efforts in restoring many traditional festivals and activities like Lùng Tùng, Xòe Chiêng, swallowtail boat racing and ancient songs of Khơ Mú ethnic community while encouraging the establishment of 129 art clubs.

“Than Uyên District is now focusing on preserving the cultural values of four ethnic groups, Thái, Khơ Mú, Mông and Dao,” said Hoàng Thị Liễu, head of the District Information and Culture Department.

According to Liễu, the regular organisation of cultural activities has attracted an increasing number of tourists to the region in recent years. Than Uyên District received nearly 20,000 tourists last year despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first six months of 2021, that number is estimated at nearly 10,000, which she said is good news for the tourism sector of the district.

She added that the local authorities would continue to promote local people’s awareness by organising regular meetings and classes for villagers “so that future generations can multiply their pride and therefore contribute their bits to building an advanced and rich cultural national identity”. 

Mường ethnic girl pursues her dream through university study

On Monday, Phạm Thị Thuận, a Mường ethnic girl from a mountainous village in central Thanh Hóa Province, travelled more than 100 kilometres to Thanh Hóa City to complete the admission test at Hồng Đức University.

Thuận has beaten thousands of candidates to be a student of History and Pedagogy at the university, with a relatively high score of 29.75 in total.

Becoming a history teacher has always been her dream, and her achievement is the result of both tireless effort and the strong determination she has shown since her childhood.

Thuận was born into a very poor family. Her father suffers from contorted limbs, and her mother has weak mental health. Both of them are illiterate, but they know the importance of education for their children.

Her mother is the breadwinner of the family. She worked in the rice field and collected scraps to get money to send Thuận and her little brother to school. She worked all day long and only got back home at night, but didn’t always manage to get enough food for the whole family.

Thuận got used to hard work from an early age. After school, she was hired to herd cattle for some villagers and was given boxes of rice as payment.

When Thuận’s mother got a job at the toothpick factory in Hà Nội in 2016, Thuận became the woman of the family. She learnt how to properly spend the money the mother sent to the family and the supportive money the father received every month. She prepared food, cooked meals, bought medicine for her father and helped her little brother do his homework.

Thuận was always busy, going to school all day and spending her free time on household chores, but she never let go of her dream to become a history teacher.

She spared no effort in performing well at school and was always top of the class during her 12 years at school. Thuận said whenever she felt tired and discouraged, she borrowed some good books to recharge herself and boost her spirit.

Thuận said the harsh years of her childhood helped her realise one big thing: only education could change her life forever.

“I didn’t want to fall into the vicious life of dropping out of school, getting married, having children and living in poverty. Therefore, I always told myself not to give up,” she said.

The day she was informed that she had been accepted to Hồng Đức University Thuận said she was happy, but also worried. She had reached her long-cherished dream but was now worried about financing her university study.

“Mom cried on the phone, saying that she was sorry for her helplessness, and then my dad cried, too,” she said.

Luckily, some organisations and benefactors heard about her situation and have offered to help her pursue her dream.

Dr Lê Hoằng Bá Huyền, Vice-Rector of Hồng Đức University, said that the school have contacted Thuận to ensure she receives support ahead of admission time.

The school has offered Thuận the opportunity to stay in the school dormitory for free. Furthermore, the school has contacted known benefactors, along with the school's study promotion fund, to provide financial support for Thuận. She would also be eligible to join social skills at school.

After graduation, Thuận will also be given an internship opportunity, if her academic performance allows it.

Vinh Phuc urged to intensify study, implementation of 13th National Party Congress' resolution

The northern province of Vinh Phuc should continue to implement the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress in association with the implementation of the Politburo's Directive 05 on enhancing the studying and following of President Ho Chi Minh's thought, morality and lifestyle, said Politburo member and Standing member of the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat Vo Van Thuong.

Working with provincial leaders on September 25, Thuong said that the province should focus on Party rectification and building, while paying more attention to decentralization and power delegation in pallarel with supervision, to ensure the smooth and effective operations of the whole system.

He advised Vinh Phuc to evaluate officials through the outcomes of their work, while strengthening the Party leadership over socio-economic development, strengthening pandemic prevention and control and promoting economic growth in all fields, especially in the rest of the year.

Alongside, the province should concentrate more on promoting the role of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee, local organisations and residents in Party building.

Secretary of the provincial Party Committee Hoang Thi Thuy Lan valued Thuong’s suggestions, pledging that Vinh Phuc will continue to work hard in implementing programmes and projects and resolutions to realise the 13th National Party Congress’ Resolution, striving to become a strong locality in economy and Party building./.

Drinking up on Vietnam’s tea culture

A tea server slowly pours tea into cups from a teapot. The pouring is performed beautifully, in a manner known as ‘high mountain-long river', which helps the scent of the tea spread. Gracefully offering guests, she holds a cup with three fingers offering the tea as ‘three dragons flanking a pearl'. That's only a snapshot of the tea drinking culture of the Vietnamese people.

Source: VNA/VNS/VOV/VIR/SGT/SGGP/Nhan Dan/Hanoitimes  

VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES SEPTEMBER 25

VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES SEPTEMBER 25

HCM City to receive 56,555 tonnes of rice from national reserve