Media wins plaudits, awards for empowering women

By Thuy Vi, Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the February 28 issue of our print edition, Vietweek)

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Stephane Gripon (4th, R), general manager of Diageo Vietnam, with the judges, winners and characters of Diageo’s first Women’s Empowerment Journalism Awards, at a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City February 26

Leading beverage company Diageo Vietnam announced Wednesday that its Women’s Empowerment Journalism Awards have succeeded in highlighting the issue of gender equality as well as the remarkable achievements of Vietnamese women from different walks of life.

The awards are part of its Plan W initiative that seeks to empower women through training. Stephane Gripon, general manager of Diageo Vietnam, said that the contest, which is planned to be an annual event, has fulfilled its objective of raising awareness about women’s empowerment. He spoke to Vietweek about the rationale for the contest and Plan W.

Vietweek: Why did Diageo Vietnam choose to launch this project?

This is a regional project across 11 Asia-Pacific countries and we believe that this kind of value is very relevant because a lot of our customers are women. For example, in the hospitality sector, 60 percent of the employees are women. We also believe that this is a way to contribute to the community. We believe that the global economy can benefit a lot from women’s empowerment. Within the company, 40 percent of our employees are women. We also want to increase the percentage of women in the senior levels of the company.

Through all these activities, what insight have you gained about the situation of women in Vietnam?

In Vietnam, women already have a very good foundation, if you look at the percentage of women as heads of companies, in the National Assembly or the People’s Councils. But it still needs to improve. For example, as a benchmark, at Diageo, we have set a target that 30 percent of the management roles should be occupied by women. We have not achieved that. But I’m proud to say that in Vietnam, four of eight of my executive members are women.

Empowering women is first ensuring that there’s equality between men and women in the society, and managing to do that can improve the situation of a family, a community, and even a nation.

What does the success of the contest mean to Diageo’s business?

We believe that the economy is always stronger when women are empowered. We see women as a consumer segment, and a fantastic opportunity for the global economy. Usually, companies look at the emerging middle class, but if you look differently, you look at the women, there will be one billion women joining the global economy in the next few years. So this is an important opportunity.

In Saigon, the hospitality sector is an opportunity for employment and career development for women. All our staff have been inspired by the fact that we are employing a lot of women. We are also supporting 600 women as promoters and 400 female bartenders in this program.

Will Diageo develop exclusive products for women?

Most of our products are focused on men. But it’s clear that there are opportunities for brands to do better on the needs of women and develop products that are more suitable for women. One of our key products for women is Baileys. Vietnamese love its taste and it’s truly a perfect gift for women on all occasions.

Does Diageo plan to provide any support for the characters featured in the winning reports?

We are working with Hanoi-based social enterprise Center for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP) and we’ve also discussed providing sponsorship, evaluating the cases and we’ll see how we can support. We are considering this, but it has to go through a process of selection with our social enterprise partner.
Launched last April, Plan W has earmarked US$10 million for empowering women in the Asia Pacific region through training. Vietnam’s share of this funding is US$756,000, equivalent to VND16 billion.
Wednesday’s award winning ceremony named 14 winners in three categories – features, photo essays and videos. They were chosen from a total of 182 entries.
The contest was launched last October in collaboration with the Vietnam Journalists Association to motivate the media to highlight women’s achievements in their personal pursuits, as well as their outstanding contributions to the family and the community.
It is part of a regional contest held across 11 Asia-Pacific countries including Australia, China, India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Top winners from Vietnam will join the regional final in Singapore on March 7. The regional winners will receive awards worth up to $10,000 and be invited to London for an International Women’s Conference this December.
Journalists winning top awards of Diageo’s Women’s Empowerment Journalism Awards 2013 with their characters at the award ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City February 26

Pham Quoc Toan, vice chairman of Vietnam Journalists Association and head of the jury, said the contest has been a success through the voices of the women it has managed to raise.

He said it is clear that the contest received considerable attention from journalists across the country, with works introducing outstanding Vietnamese women from different perspectives.

“The stories strongly support the cause of gender equality,” he said.

Vuong Thi Thao, a woman from the Co Lao ethnic group in the border highlands district, Hoang Su Phi, of Ha Giang Province, was moved at being honored by the contest. The protagonist of a winning video, she burst out in tears at the ceremony, saying she never imagined being honored as a fighting woman.

Thao, now a National Assembly deputy and a member of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee, is the only woman from her community to complete her schooling and get a college degree as well.

Pham Van Anh of the People’s Police Television, who made the video featuring Thao, said her feat in escaping poverty and the typical fate of most women in Vietnam’s highland areas was extraordinary.

She left her husband’s family and went to school when she was 20. Thao had been married to a 12-year-old boy at age 16 in exchange for a buffalo for her family.

“I wish the organizers and Diageo Vietnam can help Thao realize her wish of opening classes to preserve the cultural traditions of six ethnic groups in Hoang Su Phi District,” Anh said at the ceremony.

Ha Minh Tuan, another award winning journalist from the Hanoi Moi Newspaper, said: “I want many more women to be honored through this contest.”

Tuan won the top award in the story category with “Keeper of traditional dishes” featuring Vietnamese celebrity chef Nguyen Dzoan Cam Van.

Van, 62, said her guideline for preserving Vietnamese traditional dishes is to always stick to the original taste.

“Young people these days tend to mix Vietnamese ingredients with Chinese, or Indian or Thai, or European for some special dishes. But you need to preserve the roots of Vietnamese dishes with all your heart.”

Pham Trieu Nghi, a biology researcher at the University of Natural Sciences in Ho Chi Minh City, was featured in the photo essay “Truong Sa ambition” as the one who developed vegetable seeds for the harsh cultivation conditions on Truong Sa Island to freshen up the meals of Vietnamese solders stationed there.

The report was done by Nguyen Tan Kham from the Quang Ngai Association of Arts and Literature.

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