Women’s rights in Vietnam lag behind U.S.

Ha Nguyen

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of a series in which ESL students at Grossmont College compare and contrast customs in the United States and their native lands.

GROSSMONT COLLEGE — In recent years, Vietnam has changed into a great economy and society. The role of women in the family and in society has been enhanced. Many women have become leaders of big companies as well as holding important positions in the government.

However, an attitude still exists among many generations in Vietnamese society that women still have to handle all the housework. I appreciate the cultural values of my national traditions, but I do not like this attitude for three reasons. First, women have no opportunities for advancement at work. Second, women have no time to rest or relax. Finally, men gradually become irresponsible, apathetic, and indifferent to their loved ones.

In Vietnam, especially in cities, besides eight hours of working in the office or the companies, women have to take care of buying groceries, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and child care. The housework takes up all their time, so they no longer have enough free time for reading, studying, or researching issues related to their job.

At the university in Vietnam, older women are really rare because they do not have time. I know a woman whose name is Thanh. She is the director of a company that provides high-level personnel in Vietnam. Thanh is a highly educated woman. She had at least four opportunities to go to foreign companies to cultivate business in the United States and Australia…but she could not go because no one could take care of her children as well as handle her housework. Thanh is one of many women who have to skip a lot of opportunities for advancement at work.

Vietnamese people have a habit of eating fresh food. They use very little frozen food, so women have to buy fresh groceries every day. They usually get up at 5 or 6 am to go to the market to buy food, take their children to school, and then go to work. In the afternoon, they pick up their children, go home, prepare meals for lunch, and go back to the office. Day after day, they have no free time. Women with a tight schedule are very common in Vietnam. They are so busy that they usually put the TV on in the kitchen or dining room to watch the news or movies during the dinner. Most Vietnamese women cannot read books, go to the theater, or join clubs. Although, they are very tired, they still try to keep their family happy. They have been educated from a very young age that the housework is done by women.

Vietnamese men rarely share, or help with housework. It’s common in Vietnam to see men, before going to work, often go to the cafe.  After work, they go to restaurants to eat and drink beer with their friends or business partners. Some of them go straight home after work; but only to read newspapers or watch TV while their wives have to prepare the dinner by themselves. Then, the husband sits at dinner table and waits for his wife to bring him food. With this attitude, Vietnamese men become irresponsible with their family. They do not care about women’s misery. Therefore, the divorce rate and domestic violence in Vietnam has a tendency to increase.

While living in America, I have found my life here is completely different. Men can go shopping, cook, clean, and take care of children. They share the housework with their wives, and they are concerned for the spiritual life of women. American women have a voice and their own freedom. They are not bound by stereotypes that women must do all the housework. They are protected by law.

Currently in Vietnam, the state agency is organizing the annual poll “Women are good at work, good at home”. The conception, doing housework is women’s responsibility, is rooted in the consciousness of the leaders of the country. This concept is not of a few individuals; but of an entire nation. In my opinion, I want to break this notion by encouraging women to speak up. From there, the role of women can be improved and keeps up the momentum of women all over the world.

Nguyen is a student in ESL 103