If Swedish men enjoy being full time dads, so can Vietnamese

By Pham Van, Lam LeMarch 9, 2016 | 11:53 pm PT
The message was echoed at the inauguration of the “Swedish Dads” photo exhibition and the launch of the “Vietnamese Dads” competition on March 3 by the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Photos by Swedish Photographer Johan Bävman grace the wall of the Embassy with stories of Swedish dads caring for and playing with their children while on paternity leave. The exhibition is open until end of April.

“The purpose of this exhibition is to improve gender equality and to promote equal sharing of parental leave between men and women,” said Swedish Ambassador Camilla Mellander, whose husband took time off work to care for their children.


Ambassador Camilla Mellander (center) and guests at the opoening of the “Swedish Dads” exhibition. Photo by LL

This is the inspiration behind “Vietnamese Dads”. The competition invites Vietnamese citizens to submit photos that capture moments between Vietnamese dads and their children.

Vietnam considers gender equality one of the keys to development. The photo submissions “will in a visual way contribute to promoting gender equality and encourage the sharing of responsibilities between spouses in Vietnamese families, including childcare and household chores,” said Nguyen Phuong Hoa, deputy director general of the International Cooperation Department.

U.N Women Country Representative Shoko Ishikawa urged influential people and heads of state to take the lead by taking parental leave to fight the stigma faced by full time fathers. Together with the Ministry of Education and Training, they have been working to incorporate gender equality into the school curriculum.

Time spent with children is said to improve both father-child and spousal relationships. The daughter of Truls Ekelin, one of the Swedish dads at the event, often comes to him for comfort. While another dad, Mikael Sandstrom, now understands the frustration when the other parent is not home all day.


A photo from the “Swedish Dads” series. Source: Swedish Embassy in Hanoi

Filmmaker Tran Luc, a father himself, said Vietnamese and Swedish fathers are the same when it comes to their love for their children. Having time for children is a matter of setting priorities. Now he has a daughter, he hardly ever goes out for a beer with his friends, and instead he devotes his free time to her. 

“Investing in … women’s and girl’s economic empowerment is a wise investment in society,” said Ambassador Mellander. Sweden, a country noted for its gender equality, is an open economy characterized by high innovation, steady growth, political stability, transparent institutions, technological adaptability, a flexible labor market and high levels of education.

The Swedish welfare system allows parents 480 paid days of parental leave, receiving 80 percent of their salary. 90 days are earmarked for each parent. If they are not used, the family will forfeit its benefits.

In Vietnam mothers are eligible for 6 months of paid maternity leave while fathers get 5 days.

“Vietnamese Dads” will accept submissions until 15 May. The first, second and third prizes will be awarded 10 million, 8 million and 7 million dong respectively. The first and second prizes will be selected by a jury, while third prize will be voted for on Facebook. Entries should be sent to the Embassy of Sweden or posted on Facebook under the hashtag #VietnameseDads.

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