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Evaluation report

1999 Vietnam: Women's and Children's Rights: How Rights and Gender Sensitive Is the UNICEF Area Focused Approach

Author: Population Consultants Research Centre

Executive summary


In the 1996-2000 country program, UNICEF has been using the Area Focused Approach (AFA) in 125 designated districts with the aim to converge UNICEF assistance through different programs into the same geographic areas for greater concentration of impact and intersectoral cooperation. AFA has been affirmed as a key approach in the new 2001-2005 overall country program; however, the number of AFA districts has been reduced to 66 of the poorest districts in Vietnam. There have been previous AFA evaluations but rights/gender issues have not been focused upon, yet such analysis is essential for rights/gender to be mainstreamed. It is in light of the above that this AFA rights/ gender study was designed.

Purpose / Objective

It is anticipated that the outcomes of this evaluation will be very timely, practical and applicable for all UNICEF programs. The conclusions and recommendations drawn from this study can help project managers and project staff, both within UNICEF and amongst government counterparts, plan and develop the next country program in a more rights/gender-responsive manner.

Objectives of Study:
- To assess the extent to which current UNICEF inputs in AFA districts are addressing rights issues in the context of Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

- To provide recommendations for improved rights mainstreaming and specific rights-based indicators for future monitoring in the next country program, with a particular focus on gender


Fieldwork for this study was carried out in five UNICEF AFA districts: Quan Ba (Ha Giang), Me Linh (Vinh Phuc), Phu Vang (Thua Thein-Hue), Hoc Mon (Ho Chi Minh city), and Cau Ngang (Tra Vinh). In each AFA district, sampling covered two communes. These particular five districts were chosen because they are model AFA districts that represent five diverse geographical and ethnic regions of Vietnam and have been the subject of previous AFA-related assessments.

500 questionnaires were aimed at randomly selected women and men between the ages of 15 and 50 years who were either married or have had children. 50 people from 50 different households were interviewed per commune. Three in-depth interviews were conducted in each district with the People's Committee, Vietnam Women's Union and Health Sector officials. Five group discussions were held with girls and boys from 10 to 14 years old. Ten group discussion with men and women from 15 to 50 years old who are either married or have children were also carried out in the communes; however, these discussion were separated by sex and different age brackets, 15-24, 25-35 and 36-50.

A form for indicators covering demographics, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, child development and women's empowerment was created and submitted to each of the five sample districts for completion ahead of the field survey.

Additionally, a desk review of relevant literature was conducted.

A set of cross-sectoral indicators were field tested for future use in rights/gender monitoring. Specific impact of existing UNICEF interventions on realization of rights/gender in AFA districts were not the focus since there is a lack of baseline data consistent with the cross-sectional indicators, and rights/gender-based strategies are irregularly defined.

Processed data only disaggregated ethnicity into two categories (Kinh or ethnic minority). This made it impossible for comparison of situations between different ethnic minority groups. In addition, consolidated data did not distinguish between responses of male interviewees and female interviewees.

Key Findings and Conclusions

The standard of health infrastructure in each of the five sampled districts varies tremendously with Quan Ba being the most disadvantaged and Hoc Mon being the most advantaged. For example, Quan Ba has only 10 doctors and 1 pharmacist (2.8 doctors per 10,000 people) where all four other districts have at least double the number of doctors. Infant mortality is highest in Hoc Mon district at 3.3% followed by Me Linh 2.8%, Phy Vang 1.7% and Quan Ba 0.5%. Statistics were unavailable for Cau Ngang, which is an indicator of weak data management in a critical area with implications for child rights. In Quan Ba, Phu Vang, and Me Linh districts, 100% of children have been vaccinated. This rate was 89.8% in Cau Ngang district and 78% in Hoc Mon district. Low birth weight prevails in all sampled districts. Under-2 malnutrition is as high as 36.8% in Cau Ngang and rises to 37% for the under-5 category. In Hoc Mon district, this rate is presently 22.2%, the lowest out of the five districts, and a 2.5% decrease in
comparison with that in 1998.

At present, 43% of those interviewed use water from pump wells, 15.8% use tap water, 16.6% use water from deeps wells and up to 23.6% use water from streams, lakes, ponds or rivers. Therefore, almost a quarter of interviewees still uses unsafe water for drinking and cooking. 15.6% of sampled households have septic tanks and 10.2% have two-compartment latrines; the remainder have primitive toilets 37.5%, or no toilet 36.7%. In families with primitive latrines, the waste goes directly into ponds or lakes near their houses. In Phu Vank district, 89.9% of interviewed households did not have a toilet. When asked whether they knew how to build toilets and maintain clean water sources, 46% said that they had no idea and 17% said that they had received information from UNICEF materials.

According to statistics, the number of children attending school at each level has increased against previous years. The rate of enrolment for girls aged 6-14 years is lower than that for boys in all five districts. Drop out rates are lower than in previous years; however, it is still high.

The gender division of labor is unbalanced. Men as 'head of household' is reinforced by gender stereotypes and norms; it is considered inappropriate for men to deal with daily expenditures because it 'is petty' and more suited to women's 'economical and careful minds.' Men's domestic responsibilities are minimal (10-12%). Gender equality does not necessarily flow from poverty alleviation, as gender trends were consistent throughout income quintiles sampled. Teaching children is the only area where fathers participate more. Gender norms and stereotypes start very young through assignment of domestic tasks to daughters versus sons; 70-90% of domestic tasks are assigned to daughters. There are different expectations of parents towards children on the basis of sex.

Very few men are responsible for family planning, with only 1% male sterilization and 7% male condom use. At best, 76% of pregnant women had an adequate number of antenatal checks and 28% gained the proper weight. 90% were immunised against tetanus. In addition, women lack sufficient rest during pregnancy. They may be subjected to pressure to keep having children until they bear a son. Preference for sons is practically two times that for daughters in four out of five districts, with the highest preference of 70% in Phu Vang, Thua-Thien Hue.

The general perception in districts surveyed is that HIV/AIDS is not a concern to individuals personally or local authorities for their communities. HIV/AIDS records are kept only in two of the five districts. Although 90.8% of interviewees had heard about the disease, significantly fewer were fully aware of the modes of transmission at 70.4%. Only 33.6% knew about mother-to-child transmission.

Credit for the poor is gender skewed in favor of men in sampled areas, except for UNICEF sources. 57% of men have received loans compared to 36% of women. Moreover, only when husbands are absent or schemes specify female decision making do women retain power to make decision relating to loans. Women have very low property rights, with land titles allowing only one name. The percentage of men owning land is at least double the percentage of women.

In the sampled districts, a mere 23% of People's Council representative are female at district level and 27% at the commune level. Representation of women in People's Committee leadership positions is even lower-non-existent at the district level and 2% at the commune level.

Few children are aware of their rights but they are very interested in the issue. In some areas, a handful had received a CRC handbook but without a clear explanation of its contents. Local leaders and communities have a poor understanding of child rights/CRC. Awareness of gender and CEDAW is much more limited, even amongst VWU cadres.

Children in need of special protection data is minimal in the five AFA districts sampled. For example, two communes had no data on child disability; two others had no data on working children or orphans.


UNICEF should consciously shift AFA programming and project strategies to respond to the strategic interests of women and children as well as practical needs. Evaluations of AFA programming should be carried out periodically on an intersectoral basis within the framework of rights.

UNICEF should support future AFA districts to establish rights/gender-sensitive data collection and recording mechanisms.

UNICEF assistance should be analysed in terms of impact on relative workloads of women and men prior to intervention, and reduction of women's workload should be addressed through programming. UNICEF and counterparts should focus more attention towards men when looking at gender roles, particularly in family planning, maternal health, child health and ECD, to promote greater male involvement, and to improve male perceptions of the value of their involvement in these areas.

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Gender Equity

Viet Nam Women's Union


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