7.1 Ensuring women’s rights to vote and stand for elections Many indigenous women such as the Khmer-Krom women are certainly not aware of their very rights to vote and stand for elections. They see voting as a duty rather than a right. The Khmer-Krom women rarely stand for elections due to the unwelcoming environment and the unfamiliar territory. They go to vote, most of time, for the Vietnamese candidates, which they hardly know about the candidates’ background. The Khmer-Krom women, as well as the majority of the Khmer-Krom community, lack the overall understanding of Viet Nam’s electoral system at all levels of governments. Their beliefs are that the only people who can run for elections are the Vietnamese. Khmer women don’t know about the right to vote, let alone be a candidate to provide leadership in their community. Facing the social stigma and limited awareness of the importance of women’s participation in the political life and community activities, most indigenous women stay away from the whole electoral process.
Article 10 of the revised 2001 Law on Elections of the National Assembly Deputy stipulates proportional representation of women in the National Assembly. Unfortunately, this article is being violated. Article 14 of the 2003 Law on Elections of Members of People’s Councils stipulates proportional representation of women at the provincial, district, and communal levels. This is also not being realized. The National Strategy for the Advancement of “Vietnamese” Women to 2010 set out very vigorous goals for Viet Nam to achieve, however the word Vietnamese imply that the ‘only Vietnamese women can apply’. At 11th tenure, the government’s plan was to increase the representation of women as parliamentarians at various levels. However, the fate of the minority women in Viet Nam is evidently not a priority for the nation. The Viet Nam government’s plan to increase outreach leaflets and communication to women should pay particular attention to ensure women in rural areas are aware of such plans. How can the government communicate to them when most of them have very little education and cannot read or write? Such a plan may help the majority Vietnamese women but the indigenous women such as the Khmer-Krom, will once again be excluded. The report indicated the National Committee for the Advancement of Vietnamese Women organized six training courses for 216 female candidates nation-wide. The female turnouts of the 11th National Assembly Election reached 99.76%. The level of education of these female candidates had increased to 90.44%. As the government proudly declared the achievement on the advancement for women quantitatively as well as qualitatively, how would the world interpret this success in terms of the indigenous women in Viet Nam? By the government’s admission, there are challenges to bringing this campaign to indigenous women, who lack all means to participate with the Vietnamese women majority. Will there be concrete plans to engage indigenous women to be aware of the election process and to become candidates in the next tenures and elections? If they overcome the systematic discrimination and are elected, will the indigenous women be allowed to voice their own communities concern? 7.2 Women’s right in State, economic, and social governance The 1998 Ordinance on Civil Servants and the revised 2003 Ordinance on Civil Servants provide non-discriminatory treatments between women and men in recruitment, employment, appointment, salary, and bonuses. There should be an amendment to the Ordinance to remove non-discriminatory treatments between the Vietnamese majority and the indigenous women and men, in order to provide equal access to employment opportunities on the civil servant field. Today, indigenous Khmer-Krom women have been sent to distant places, far away from their villages and towns, in order to gain employment after their studies. Many have turned down the offer due to traveling expenses and family obligations. Others simply have no hope of obtaining such opportunities, hence dropping out of school to work for low-paying jobs. Khmer-Krom women face major barriers to government jobs as well as other national job pool, even though the overall economic growth is exceptionally high. The number of unemployed indigenous women such as the Khmer-Krom is rampant. Many educated Khmer-Krom women have been forced to accept low paying jobs to survive. As for the leadership positions, the government has tried to narrow the gap between men and women; however, little initiatives exist to narrow the large gap between the Vietnamese majority and the indigenous Khmer. No statistics to indicate what kind of leadership positions of the indigenous peoples have been obtained. Or can it be true that the number is too small or non existent to be accounted for? If so, what is the government’s future plan to foster the leadership from within the indigenous women such as the Khmer-Krom women? NGOs such as the KKF specifically the Women’s Commission should be partners in this important endeavor to empower women in Kampuchea Krom. 7.3 Women’s right to participate in political and social organizations Based on government’s statistics, the participation of women in these organizations have been low in comparison to Vietnamese men. We are concerned with the lack of statistical number about whether indigenous peoples’ participation such as the Khmer-Krom are taking part in the decisions that affect their lives. If so, what is government’s plan to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples in the national institutions? 7.4 Directions to increase women’s participation in political and community activities in the futureIn the same report, the government recognized the lack of Vietnamese women’s participation in the political and communal processes and has examined measures to promote and to bring the awareness by improving the training of women. Such training programs should educate indigenous women in their mother tongue language. The government must strive for equality for all women and not just Vietnamese women. The governments cannot only support women whose families have close tie to the Communist Party only, while the rest of the women are kept out of the whole process.
Women’s participation in international activities Viet Nam’s laws and policies ensure the equal rights of men and women to participate in international activities. To be inclusive laws for all, the indigenous women and men must have equal participation in this arena as well. 8.1 Women in the diplomatic service The 2005 report indicated the percentage of in diplomatic service accounted for 28%, at what proportion of minority women is unknown or non-existent. Is this a foregone conclusion that the indigenous women have no future in this field? Khmer women actively participate in the KKF attending the various UN meetings. There is no reason they are not allowed to be the legitimate voice of their communities participating actively in the international arena in official positions. The report also indicated the number of the female students’ admission into the Institute for International Relations has been on the rise. Is there any indication of the indigenous female students, participating in this process? If not, what is government’s plan to attract the indigenous students such as the Khmer-Krom into this field of studies and the same time providing them equal access to the diplomatic service ? Young indigenous coeds are not adequately represented being denied access to study and therefore to serve in the international arena. 8.2 Women’s participation in external activities The Women of Viet Nam are being encouraged to participate at the WTO, APEC, and ASEAN forums and conferences. The Women of Viet Nam have also joined the Vietnamese leaders on the many foreign trips around the world. How many indigenous women get the same equal opportunity to participate? The report indicated the proportion of Vietnamese women working for international organizations is on the increase, averaging over 50%. However, it is known for a fact that the chances of indigenous women such as the Khmer-Krom taking active part in this area of employment are practically non-existent. The report indicated a strong bond between the State and the Viet Nam Women’s Union. What is the future plan of the Viet Nam Women’s Union to attract the indigenous women? Or is the Viet Nam Women’s Union only a Vietnamese-women club? If not so, will the Union have plans to set up local offices in the Khmer-Krom’s villages and towns and to train the indigenous women to understand the roles of the Women Union and its role in the national and international affairs. The Union and the Government can help facilitate the open communication to build the friendship and cooperation among other indigenous women in other countries. The KKF Women’s Commission would encourage partnership with the Union to elevate the abilities of women to be true partners in the future of the community.