Friday, 12 August 2016 – “I commend Vietnam’s strong track record in developing policies and laws that promote gender equality and applaud its remarkably high rates of female participation in the labour force. In Australia and Vietnam, as with all countries, however, there is still much to be done to empower women and girls.”

These inspiring words by Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, mark the starting point of the ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement’ (WEAVE) project, funded by the Australian Government and implemented through a partnership of SNV, Oxfam and CARE International in Vietnam.

The WEAVE project, which will run over three years, aims to enhance women’s economic empowerment and social inclusion in key agricultural value chains in rural Vietnam through promoting gender equality at the household level, effective producer groups at the community level and an improved, enabling environment in the region and throughout the country. The two mountainous provinces in Vietnam where the project is implemented, Lao Cai and Bac Kan, have been left behind by the economic growth that has transformed Vietnam over recent decades.

The project directly targets 1,800 women and men, mainly ethnic minorities, who grow pigs, cinnamon or bananas or who participate in the related value chains. It will place particular emphasis on supporting women smallholder farmers and cooperatives to strengthen their skills in marketing, financial literacy, business planning, negotiation, and legal matters. WEAVE is also expected to indirectly benefit local enterprises, other non-targeted value chain actors and product consumers of the three selected value chains.

Ms. Natasha Stott Despoja (first right) talking with pig farmers from Bac Kan

The successful launch event was attended by dignitaries from Vietnam and Australia, including Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, Australian Ambassador designate to Vietnam, Craig Chittick and the Vice Chairpersons of the People’s Committees of the two provinces in Northwest Vietnam where the project will be implemented, Mr. Dang Xuan Thanh from Lao Cai Province and Mr. Pham Duy Hung from Bac Kan province. During the launch event participants had the opportunity to meet beneficiaries from the project, working in either the bananas, cinnamon or pig value chains, as well as see samples of their locally made products. “I have been able to learn about the challenges that these women and men are facing”, says Ms. Despoja. “Australia is pleased to offer its support and I am delighted to launch the WEAVE project as it is dear to our heart and close to our strategy.”