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Australia helping northwestern women improve their lives

Released at: 19:48, 24/07/2018

Australia helping northwestern women improve their lives

Businesswomen in Son La province introduced the local products. Photo: Embassy of Australia

Australian Government kicks off Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) Program in Son La and Lao Cai provinces.

by Le Diem

The Australian Government officially kicked off its Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) Program in northwestern Vietnam on July 24, in a bid to empower women, create jobs and improve incomes.

Implemented until 2021, the A$33.7 million ($25 million) program will empower local women to engage in agriculture and tourism markets and enhance their voice in economic decision-making.

The program will partner with a diverse range of actors, including the private and non-government sectors in agriculture and tourism, to improve the policy environment and stimulate inclusive and equitable growth in Vietnam’s mountainous northwest. It is expected to assist some 40,000 self-employed women in boosting their incomes and create approximately 4,000 jobs for women to drive economic growth.

Gender equality is a priority for both Australia and Vietnam and a critical part of the Australian Government’s development cooperation in Vietnam, according to Mr. Justin Baguley, Counsellor, Economic and Development Cooperation, at the Australian Embassy in Vietnam. “The GREAT program aims to stimulate innovative solutions to enhance the lives of women, their families and local communities in northwest Vietnam, and will also contribute to higher productivity and economic growth in the region,” he said. “We look forward to working closely with the provinces of Lao Cai and Son La to make the program a success.”

Mr. Lo Minh Hung, Deputy Chairman of the Son La Provincial People’s Committee and Co-Chair of the GREAT Program’s Steering Committee in Son La, said the province has been making major efforts in reducing poverty and improving gender equality and it greatly appreciates the support of the Australian Government along with the Vietnamese Government’s investment in initiatives on poverty reduction, gender equality improvements, and socioeconomic development in program districts and the province as a whole.

A forthcoming call for proposals was also announced, with a closing date in mid-August. The call will be available to partners from both the private and public sectors and aims to develop and implement innovative market-oriented solutions to persistent poverty and economic marginalization among women in ethnic minority communities in the two provinces. Successful applicants will receive financial and technical support from the program, and in exchange will help enhance links with new markets and suppliers, improve the policy environment, and contribute to sustainable social development in northwest Vietnam.

Vietnam’s mountainous northwest is home to a diverse ethnic minority population and has some of the highest levels of poverty and inequality in the country. Women in these areas are particularly disadvantaged, experiencing challenges such as isolation, lower levels of education, and lack of decision-making power in their households and the community, which prevent them from accessing economic opportunities.

To help address these challenges, the Australian Government is supporting the GREAT Program as part of the Aus4Equality initiative. The program was designed to give local women in these provinces the opportunities to engage more meaningfully and profitably in the agriculture and tourism value chains and to be involved in economic decision-making and leadership. Son La and Lao Cai are the focus of the initiative.

By promoting inclusive market systems development, in partnership with the private sector, the program will help increase productivity in the agriculture and tourism sectors in the two provinces, contributing to inclusive economic growth and improved gender equality. In agriculture, the program will focus on selected value chains, including spices, vegetables, tea, medicinal herbs, and rice, among others. In tourism, its focus will on community-based tourism, employment generation, the enhancement of traditional handicrafts, and agritourism.

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