Hanoi, 12 July 2018 – Vietnam’s first Law on Access to Information, effective as of 1st July 2018, provide a crucial opportunity for state authorities, social organisations and citizens to increase information transparency in general and narrow the gap of information for ethnic minorities in particular.
The right of access to information is one of the fundamental human rights that are stated in Vietnamese Constitution. For the first time, this right is specified in the five chapters and thirty seven articles of the Law on Access to Information. The Law stipulate the exercise of citizens’ right of access to information; the principles, sequences and procedures for the exercise of the right of access to information, and the responsibilities and obligations of state agencies to guarantee citizens’ right of access to information.
Ethnic minority women falling behind in access to information
A CARE’s survey in 2017 in five communes in Cao Bang, Bac Kan and Dien Bien found that although ethnic minority people, who take up for the majority of the populations in these provinces, can access multiple types of information but women have much less access than men. In addition, there are different levels of satisfaction with the information they can access. The survey found that most people are generally happy with information regarding education, healthcare and general social welfare. Yet, they are less happy with information related to laws, policies and social affairs as for them, such information is available but inadequate, not up to date, and irregular. The level of satisfaction is lowest when it comes to the group of information that is perceived as most relevant to their daily lives, including information on economic development, agricultural market, available credit programs, and agricultural extension programs. The survey also revealed that most information disseminated by local authorities is one-way and limited in formats and channels, thus reducing the effectiveness of information.
According to the same survey, ethnic minority women are still catching up with their male fellow villagers who are the main participants in village meeting. Ethnic minority men also have better access to different sources of information such as specialised training, printed materials (posters, leaflets, etc.), bulletin boards or mini-library. Because these sources are mostly available in offices of communal People’s Committee, ethnic minority women, who generally are less mobile than men, are less likely to access the information. “Ethnic minority women’s limited access to information, combined with women’s lower educational level as compared to men and gender stereotypes, makes it harder for them to increase their voice and decision-making power within the family and the larger community,” said Ms. Le Kim Dung, Country Director of CARE International in Vietnam.
Initiatives to narrow the gap
To address these challenges, CARE has cooperated with various stakeholders, including local NGOs and government agencies, to raise awareness on the Law on Access to Information and support the law enforcement at local level. Six communal communication and information committees in Cao Bang, Bac Kan and Dien Bien have been set up as a communication and information sharing mechanism between local authorities and villagers and among villagers themselves. Such mechanism takes into account the cultural and ethnical contexts in each area. This initiative is part of the European Union-funded project called “Increasing ethnic minority women’s access to information for improved governance and development”, also known as the Informed to Influence or I2I project, that works to enhance government transparency and accountability for promoting ethnic minorities’ right to access information. Within the four years of the project (2017-2020), it will improve women’s access to and use of information relevant to their daily lives and work.
About CARE International in Vietnam
CARE is an international development and humanitarian aid organisation fighting global poverty and social injustice.
In Vietnam, CARE has implemented over 300 projects in over 40 provinces nationwide. At present, CARE works with communities, local and central governments, international and national organisations and individuals to bring lasting change to vulnerable populations, especially women, by addressing the root causes of poverty, vulnerabilities and social injustice. At the same time, CARE continues to deliver humanitarian and emergency assistance in times of crisis such as natural disasters.
Previously, CARE International worked in Vietnam from 1954 to 1975 to address immediate needs such as food supply, health care and education. From 1989-2015, CARE International in Vietnam supported agricultural and rural development, livelihood creation, community development, health care and reproductive health, HIV/ AIDS prevention and control, disaster risk reduction and mitigation, climate change response, emergency relief and rehabilitation, water and sanitation, and the advancement of gender equality.