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Art exhibit in Vietnam sparks conversations on gender norms

News Stories /11 November 2022

On October 24, the Australian Embassy Vietnam and CARE International in Vietnam launched an art exhibit highlighting the multiple burdens on women and prompting conversations on equal sharing of caring and economic roles across genders within households.

Housed at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum until 11 November, the art exhibit features 10 contemporary artworks by prominent and emerging Vietnamese artists on traditional perceptions of femininities, the burden of care and barriers to women’s full economic participation in Vietnam.

The art exhibit, titled “một câu đựng trời trong cơi đựng trầu,” means “holding the sky in a shallow bowl of betel nut.” The title is a wordplay on a Vietnamese proverb: “men are as shallow as a well and women as deep as a bowl of betel nut.” The title challenges the meaning of the proverb and recognises the power women hold despite roles imposed by society.

Discussions on the title of the art exhibit were among the highlights of the launch event, with speakers noting the need for gender advocates in Vietnam to localise the discourse on gender norms.

Speaking at the launch event, HE Andrew Goledzinowski, Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, said the art exhibit can spark conversations to catalyse cultural shifts to reflect Vietnamese urban millennials’ realities.

“We have here in Vietnam a society which is changing rapidly, and a culture which is changing much more slowly… Economic changes are happening here quickly, society is changing rapidly, and culture needs to catch up,” he said.

The Ambassador cited an IW survey of 2,000 urban millennials in Vietnam in 2020, which showed that half of the respondents who had children said they share childcare responsibilities equally with their partners, even when only a third said they grew up in households where childcare was shared.

The exhibit curator Dinh Thao Linh said the artworks highlight how gender equality is not just about “loving and respecting women,” which tends to be the highlight of celebrations such as Vietnamese Women’s Day on 24 Oct.

It is also about recognising “social norms and expectations from society, families and ourselves toward those around us, be it, women or men,” Ms Linh said. “Men are also burdened by the expectations to be ’” she added.

For her part, CARE in Vietnam Country Director Le Kim Dung underscored the need to create discourse on the multiple barriers to women. “We are honoured to collaborate with the artists to make some of these invisible barriers more visible and capture often-hidden facets of the women’s experiences that dominate our lives,” she said.

Other speakers at the event included Le Khanh Luong, Deputy Director of the Department of Gender Equality at the Vietnam Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs, and Nguyen Thi Tuyet, Director of the Vietnamese Women’s Museum.

The art exhibit launch event also featured a panel discussion among representatives of IW’s partners who work on gender norm change campaigns in Vietnam. They highlighted innovative approaches used in their campaigns and what they are learning, including through audience responses to their messages.

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