Statement

Speech of Ms. Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative at the Awards Ceremony of the TikTok Contest “Girls deserve to shine”

2 October 2020

Excellency, Ms. Elsbeth Akkerman, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Viet Nam;

Ms. Nguyen Van Anh, Director of CSAGA;

Mr. Nguyen Lam Thanh, TikTok Director of Policy;

Distinguished guests and media fellows;

On behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Viet Nam, I am very pleased to welcome you to the award ceremony “Girls Deserve to shine”. Thank you for joining us here today to raise our voices to end gender-biased sex selection.

It is a great partnership with CSAGA and Tik Tok to have the 1st competition on the issue of gender-biased sex selection (GBSS) through social media in Viet Nam. It is amazing that the competition has attracted such wide attention from Vietnamese young people, with more than 1,690 video clips submitted, more than 6.8 million views, 642,000 likes, 14,200 shares and nearly 8,000 interactions. This shows how you, especially young people of Viet Nam, care about, and are concerned about gender-biased sex selection based on son preference.

I would like to extend my special appreciation to the Government of Norway and the Government of the Netherlands for joining forces with UNFPA Viet Nam to make change on socio-cultural norms of preferring boys over girls and resorting to gender-biased sex selection.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Are you aware how many girls are missing in Viet Nam every year? Are you aware that many girls do not get to be born simply because they are girls? UNFPA’s State of the World Population Report 2020 estimates that 40,800 female births are missing in Viet Nam. It means that 40,800 girls are not born every year in Viet Nam because they were found to be a girl. This is called pre-natal sex selection. Is this not heart-breaking? Really in Viet Nam, your children have to be boys, and not girls?  

I came from Japan. In the pre-war Japan, we used to sell off girls out of poverty. Girls back then were regarded as a family burden, so they had to be married off, or brought for apprenticeship for money. It was only men who could inherit family assets and family lines, despite the fact that traditionally, the Japanese family was matrilineal. But the war happened. Destruction and reconstruction took place. Big reforms were undertaken. Education systems were changed. People’s mentality was shifted, so that we no longer sell off, or marry off, girls any more. Today women inherit family lines and family assets. And if Japan, which shares a lot of similar patriarchal cultural values with Viet Nam, could change, I strongly believe change is possible in Viet Nam too, and change happens for the better.

“Son preference” is anything but a benign tradition, and it is a product of gender-biased systems which place higher social status to men and boys, and which favour male over female children. I dream of Viet Nam, where every girl and every woman can enjoy equal rights and opportunities, and this includes baby girls who are yet to be born, and who are not even able to say how badly they would like to be born. I dream of Viet Nam, where every couple feels safe, happy, and satisfied, as long as their baby is born healthy, and not because it is a boy or a girl.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let us all be united together to end gender-biased sex selection. Every one of us has a significant role to play, and it is only through such solidarity that we can bring about societal change, as an issue for achieving Sustainable Development Goals, “leaving no one behind.” We are not leaving girls behind.

Thank you very much for your attention and participation in this event.