October 22, 2018

On 24 and 25 May, 2012 RLS and the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under the Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City (USSH HCMC) organized an International Conference on Gender and Migration. The conference brought together scholars and practitioners from Germany, Vietnam, India, China, and the UK.

Since the market-oriented reform policy (doi moi) has been initiated in 1986, Vietnam’s economic transition is causing a social transition on all levels. About 54% of the workforce still is employed in agriculture; only about 20% work in the industry. Due to the large economic growth, Vietnam is now being considered one of the countries with middle income, yet by international standards the poverty rate is still at about 20%, even though it has decreased sharply. The disparities in income have grown massively, not only between social strata, but also regionally. These conditions contribute to a rapidly increasing stream of migrants in the country that has recently been discovered as a major chance for development, but also as a cause of many social challenges. Since migration in Vietnam in its current form is a relatively new phenomenon, large gaps in the research and public knowledge about this process exist, leading to the persistence of administrative barriers and social discrimination. To understand the social impact of migration on society, its dependence of and influence on gender relations have to be taken into account. Not only is the increasingly female group of migrants facing challenges by traditional patriarchal values, but the renegotiation of gender relations caused by the migration process, is also offering great chances to improve gender equality.

The conference contributed:

1. To facilitate a network and information exchange amongst researchers, political decision-makers, non-governmental organizations and representatives of migrants that is aware of the necessity of analyzing migration related issues through a gender sensitive lens and that supports the development of comprehensive intervention models in order to strengthen the rights as well as socio-economic and political participation of migrants, especially migrant workers.

2. To create a platform for an international discourse on existing regional and local knowledge and research and to accentuate regional/local models as alternatives to the mainstream approaches in the field of Gender and Migration.

3. To create a forum for a south-south dialogue in order to add value to the global discourse on Gender and Migration.

4. To raise awareness about the work of RLS and its partners as well as to define and kick off intervention ideas for RLS and its partners in the field of Gender and Migration.

The conference was divided into five sessions. Session 1 focused on theoretical questions of Gender and Migration with contributions from Dr. Nicola Piper, Prof. Dang Nguyen Anh and Prof. Ba Thinh. The presentations showed that research on migration under the consideration of gender theories is a so far new and limited field. Most researches until now focus on a rather descriptive analysis of the situation of male and female migrants. In session 2 the presentations looked at Gender and Migration in political decision making and legal issues in the Asian region. Vu Ngoc Binh drew a picture of gender and rights matters for female migrants in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. Tran Thu Thuy presented the role and policies of the Vietnamese Women’s Union and Tran Thi Kim Thanh described the issue of integrating gender questions into action programs of local authorities in Ho Chi Minh City. In the 3rd session the focus was social cohesion and approaches in policy making and social work. May Wong portrayed successful examples of the Hong Kong based NGO Globalization Monitor in organizing and mobilizing migrants in order to advocate for their rights in Chinese industrial zones. The presentations of Heather Zhang and Loksee Leung made recommendations for policy-makers in improving their policies towards gender equality in the fields of reproduction, well-being and remittances. Session 4 contained of the question on strengthening migrants’ rights and participation in decision-making processes through a gender lens. Saleena Pokunju illustrated the work of the Indian NGO Society for Labour and Development in improving the working and living conditions of migrant workers in Gurgaon. Le Van Thanh analyzed the mechanisms of informal networks of labour migrants in HCMC. As second part of session 4 the conference offered an exchange between three female migrants and the participants. The presentations of Saleena Pokunju and May Wong raised an interesting discussion about the roles of trade unions in protecting labourers’ rights of migrants as their cases showed the involvement of NGOs and social activist groups being needed for such causes. The last session intended to provide a platform to summarize findings, point out open questions and opportunities for next steps. Nguyen Hong Xoan provided an input on the framework of the cooperation between RLS and USSH HCMC. She emphasized the need to continue a more gender-analytical migration research in Vietnam. Katharina Puehl put the content of the conference into the broader picture of RLS work in the field of a gender analysis of society and capitalism. Her presentation stressed the need for a combined analysis of the structural impacts of economic transformation on gendered practices of social reproduction and inequalities.

The discussion during the last session unrevealed several interesting issues, such as the gap between research and political decision-making; the need for more exchange between academia, political decision-makers and social activists; limits in analyzing migration from a gendered perspective and in how far this is related to the injustices caused by the global as well as local neo-liberal agendas in economy and politics. Participants raised the wish to continue future exchange and to plan next steps in order to work on open points that were shown by the conference.

The conference was concluded with a field trip to Vinh Hue Company in Thu Duc District in HCMC.

The presentations were as follows:


Welcome Remarks

USSH, National University in HCMC,

President Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen

RLS Country Representative, Ms. Nadja Charaby

Session 1: Theoretical approaches in gender and migration – Chaired by Prof. Dr. Tran Thi Kim Xuyen

Gender and migration in South-East Asian

Dr Nicola Piper

Senior Research Fellow,

Arnold Bergstraesser Institute, Germany

Gender and migration decision-making with reference to Viet Nam

Prof. Dr. Dang Nguyen Anh

Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences

Reviewing gender and migration work in Vietnam

Prof. Dr. Hoang Ba Thinh

USSH, Vientam National University Ha Noi

Session 2: Gender and Migration in Political Decision Making and Legal Issues in the Asian Region

Chaired by Prof. Dr Nguyen Dinh Cu,

International female labour migration in the world, ASEAN and Vietnam – laws, policies and practices from rights and gender perspectives

Vu Ngoc Binh

Former Specialist of UN Vietnam

Consultant for World Bank in Ha Noi Vietnam

The status of gender integration into migration-related policies in Vietnam

Tran Thu Thuy – Chief Secretariat

National Women’s Union, Vietnam

The status of gender integration into action programs in Vietnam

Tran Thi Kim Thanh

The Head of Gender Equity, Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, HCMC

Session 3: Gender and Migration – Social inclusion/cohesion and approaches in Policy Making and Social Work in the Asian Region. Chaired by Dr Nguyen Thi Hong Xoan

A better life? migration, reproduction and wellbeing in transition

Dr. Heather Zhang

Senior Lecturer in Chinese Social Studies, Department of East Asian Studies,       University of Leeds, UK

Dr. Catherine Locke

School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK

Gender sensitive migrant policies: Gender Remittances from Internal Migrants

Ms Loksee Leung

Project Officer, IOM

Gender and migration- experiences of NGOs

May Wong – Executive Director

Globalization Monitor, Hong Kong

Session 4: Strengthening migrants’ rights and participation in decision-making processes through a gender lens – working with different stakeholders / the network approach. Chaired by Ms Nadja Charaby

Working and living conditions of migrants in Gurgaon, India

Saleena Pookunju

Society for Labour and Development, India

Experiences from Vietnam: A gender view on social networks of Migrants in HCMC


Le Van Thanh / Nguyen Thi Le Uyen

Institute for Development Studies, HCMC, Vietnam

Sharing experiences from female migrants


Facilitated by chair persons

Session 5: Discussion about Networking


Input presentation RLS

Dr. Katharina Puehl

Input presentation

Dr. Nguyen Hong Xoan

Discussion on key topics and potential next steps

Moderation: Dr. Katharina

Dr. Nguyen Hong Xoan

Closing and wrap up of main conclusion

MA. Bang Anh Tuan / Mrs. Nadja Charaby


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