President Obama Emphasized The Need For Gender Equality & Activism On His Visit To Vietnam

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On his recent trip to Vietnam, which carried all sorts of historic and political connotations because of the history surrounding the two countries, President Obama made sure to speak to what the people of the country are experiencing today as well. More specifically, he spoke about the need for greater human rights and gender equality, which is an important message.

It was only a 3 day visit, but it made a huge ripple effect around the world, as is normal with much of what he does to create change as part of his presidency. The Washington post reported the often juxtaposed messages that appear throughout Vietnamese culture, such as how when it comes to symbolism, the notion of “enlightenment” is often portrayed as female, yet this is still a country where baby boys are preferred over girls.

“I like daughters,” said the President to the onlookers and team of media following him on this trip, which was a nod to his own two teenage daughters Sasha and Malia, but also an affirmation of his feminist ideals and principles which have been weaved throughout his presidency, and even began it when he signed the Lily Ledbetter Act into law as his first job back in 2009.

On previous trips to Kenya and India, he has spoken of the need to place more emphasis on equal rights, and he did the same in Vietnam. At a convention in front of more than 2000 people, he shared his thoughts on why gender equality is important.

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“We think gender equality is an important principle. Strong, confident women have always moved Vietnam forward. The evidence is clear — I say this wherever I go around the world — families, communities and countries are more prosperous when girls and women have an equal opportunity to succeed,” he said.

The leaders, organizations and entrepreneurs he met with on the tour included women, and not just the token one or two, but in some cases they outnumbered men. It wasn’t just gender equality he emphasized in some of his stops, but also the importance of activism and freedom of speech to create progressive, democratic change.

The President held a town hall meeting with Vietnamese youth in Ho Chi Minh City and took questions from the audience. He preceded the Q&A session by saying he would alternate taking answers from girls and boys in order to keep it fair. Equality right down to the small everyday conscious decisions is what it is all about!

Female activists asked him about human trafficking and POTUS used his answer as a way to highlight once again how gender equality is going to be a key component to preventing this epidemic on many levels.

He said the solution is to “focus on women and girls because girls are not given the same educational opportunities as boys, and as a consequence find themselves in very desperate situations.

During the same event, a well-known Vietnamese rapper by the name of Suboi (26-year-old Hàng Lâm Trang An) stood up and asked President Obama, along with all the work he is doing to ensure economic, racial and gender equality, what is he doing to ensure the arts are promoted and funded as well.

In true rockstar Obama style, he first asked her to rap for the audience, which she did (video below). After she did that, he talked about how hip hop and rap itself started as an important genre of music in America, used to declare the struggles and experiences of specifically the black community. Today it is a genre known by people all around the world which speaks to the power of art, music and creativity which can touch lives in ways that even politics or activism often cannot. He also touched on the way art is used as a form of activism, saying it can be dangerous at times.

“Sometimes governments get nervous about art. But if you try to suppress the arts, you suppress the deepest dreams and aspirations of the people. Something like rap, which started off as an expression of poor African Americans, now has become a global phenomenon and is really the art form of most people around the world today,” he said.

It was a fitting end to a short visit which did not overtly have any sort of women’s rights agenda, but certainly had themes of equality, identity and activism weaved throughout. As his time in office comes to a close over the next 7 months, we can’t stress enough how impactful it is to see the leader of the most powerful country in the world take the time to acknowledge how we can be a better society when we focus on giving everyone and equal chance to succeed.

Especially in countries where women are not automatically seen as equal citizens and are held back by years of tradition that seems them locked into narrow gender roles, what President Obama has done for women around the world should not be taken lightly.

Watch him speak at the Town Hall in Vietnam below:

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  1. Pingback: Our Highlights From The Inaugural White House 'United State Of Women' Summit - GirlTalkHQ

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