Ha Noi, 3 November 2012 – A national workshop on the sex ratio at birth imbalance was organised today in Ha Noi, by the Ministry of Health (MOH), with technical support from UNFPA. The workshop provided a good opportunity for nearly 450 participants from the MOH and other related government ministries and organizations from 63 provinces to discuss key achievements and results of the national project on addressing the sex ratio at birth (SRB) imbalance.
oday, 117 million women across Asia are "missing", largely due to the current SRB imbalance, which is a direct manifestation of extensive gender discrimination. Viet Nam is not the first country to face a SRB imbalance but the challenge is significant and is increasing. The SRB rose from 106.2 boys per 100 girls in 2000 to 111.9 boys per 100 girls in 2011, and the ratio continues to rise. There is ample evidence in Asia and in Viet Nam to show that a SRB imbalance is largely caused by pre-natal sex selection, which is driven by deep-rooted cultural norms favouring sons and placing lower values on girls. Such deep-rooted traditions place huge pressure on women to produce sons, which ultimately affects their overall socio-economic status as well as their sexual and reproductive lives, with implications for their health and survival.
According to Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Health, about four million Vietnamese males under the age of 50 might have difficulty in finding wives in 2050 if Viet Nam fails to take steps to curb the increasing sex ratio at birth imbalance.
Speaking at the workshop Christophe Guilmoto, a consultant from UNFPA, said Viet Nam has developed a SRB imbalance later than other countries but the rate had increased more rapidly. Guilmoto said it was necessary to stop the pressure on families who only have daughters and to increase women's value in both families and society. He also added that measures should target prosperous families with high education levels to reduce their desire to have sons and their access to illegal sex selection before birth.
Kiran Bhatia, UNFPA gender advisor in the Asia and the Pacific office, shared the regional orientation and strategy on preventing gender-biased sex selection as well as regional experiences, lessons learnt and good practices in addressing a SRB imbalance.
Addressing the workshop, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan expressed his appreciation to the UN in Viet Nam, particularly UNFPA, for its collaboration and support over the past years to work on population, reproductive health and gender equality. The Deputy Prime Minister said bringing the SRB rate down would require more efforts and participation from the political system. He urged the MOH, the Ministry of Education and Training and other related ministries and social organizations to strengthen information, education and communication activities at all levels to address the issue. He also suggested the MOH to increase the quantity and quality of its grassroots communication activities and gender equality in schools. He stressed that there should be no disparity between boys and girls. And gender inequality in education and health care must be addressed. Changing mindset is a key solution to SRB imbalance.
Speaking at the workshop, UNFPA Representative a.i. in Viet Nam, Ms. Mandeep K. O'Brien recommended three interventions. This includes: (1) more comprehensive behaviour change involving mass media, civil society, health workers, community leaders and other relevant groups; (2) more emphasis on promoting the role of women and girls in society, improving their status and realising their rights; (3) strengthening data collection systems to ensure accuracy in collecting and reporting on SRB from village to the central level.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Mandeep K. O'Brien said that the UN in Viet Nam stands ready to continue its work with the Government and other development and civil society partners to advance the status of women and establish South-South and triangular collaboration that can strengthen the efforts to tackle sex selection. "I would like to reaffirm our commitment to join hands with your efforts and provide all the support we can at the national and sub-national level to help bring an end to this phenomenon. Our collective efforts to achieve this common objective must remain a priority," Ms. O'Brien concluded.