Although I have only been in Viet Nam for a couple of months, I quickly came to realize the magnitude of the role women have in Vietnamese society. Women wear so many different hats here (literally)! I feel it daily: as I am on my way to work in the early mornings and see the restaurant owners or the flower, fruit and vegetable vendors setting up or travelling with their produce on their bicycles, or when I see my female coworkers rushing home during lunch time to take care of their sick children or their elderly parents-in law. When invited to Vietnamese homes, one can’t help but notice the amount of time and care that goes into preparing the countless diverse dishes, all traditionally prepared by the women of the household. It is indeed the norm if you are a woman here to not only contribute to the household economically, but also to perform the daily household chores, take on childrearing and to care for the in-laws, who very often live in the same home. Vietnamese women are, by all means, incredibly hardworking. This was, in fact, one of the very first things that struck me upon my arrival in this country. That and how much rice can be ingested in one single day!

Through my volunteer mandate as a career service officer in Hanoi Tourism College, I am lucky to work alongside incredible women. Education is highly valued in Vietnam and it boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world (Unicef), with access to education between males and females being relatively equal (at least, in the urban areas). Women have sometimes even held a slightly higher enrolment rate in tertiary education for the past couple of years (ODSEF) (Young Lives). In this sense, the female representation at HTC is quite customary for Vietnamese higher education, as the students are more than 50% female. Recently, I have been assisting with the training of a small group of female students selected to compete in World Skills Vietnam, a hospitality contest. Throughout my time with them, I have been truly inspired by their tenacity and motivation to achieve their goals. A great thing about HTC is their desire to inspire and encourage students to be ambitious and pursue their aspirations no matter their gender throughout their various programs, which include hospitality management, tour guide certifications, restaurant and food service management and entrepreneurship. The contestants I have been assisting with customer service and English skills are all between the ages of 18 and 21 years old and all have a very good idea of what they want to accomplish in their careers, ranging from hotel managers to restaurant owners, which is more than I could say about myself at that age!

However, the Hanoi Tourism College is well aware that my past state of perpetual confusion and apprehension about my future is quite a common occurrence for post-secondary education students. As part of my mandate, I have been preparing to do a campaign called “I Have A Dream”, which focuses on students setting goals for their future and offering tools on how to achieve them by providing career inspiration and guidance. We hope that this will help student engagement and motivation and reduce the number of students who drop-out of school. Again, in line with the Uniterra program’s mission, we have insured that gender inclusion is at the forefront of this campaign and have successfully recruited an equal male to female student ration to attend the “I Have A Dream” Sessions!

I will make sure to post an update on all those exciting projects, but in the meantime happy women’s day!

An exercise in balance
Flower vendors are a common sight in Ha Noi
Local women rowing boat on the Mekong Delta
Women selling their produce at my local market