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Looking at gender and development in Southeast Asian countries from the cultural point of view
8/3/2007 16:47' Send Print

The world has changed from a place with arms races and confrontation to dialogue and peaceful co-existence, and from the European-Atlantic to Asia-Pacific development strategy. Humans are encouraging East-West integration although they still have to confront terrorism and unfair treatment. So both the East and the West are required to profoundly understand each other in all respects with tolerance in order to find reasonable and effective solutions for all issues among them gender and development. After Southeast Asian countries experienced western culture under colonial rule, they have gradually changed into double-edged societies, combining a farmer society with a traditional agricultural, village culture and a colonial society with an industrial (although backwards and lame) and an urban culture. Until now, the issue of women’s emancipation and empowerment following western egoism has been refracted by the tradition of respecting women according to male chauvinism in Southeast Asia.

In order to realise equality between men and women and to keep up with developed countries, Southeast Asia should take the advantage of the latecomer. Advantages and women emancipation should be counted on in the following aspects: first, the role of women and the “respecting women” tradition. Second, advantages of Southeast Asia are shown in women’s capacity and conduct in the condition of “respecting women” now that the agricultural civilisation has positively been promoted, which make Southeast Asian women aware of their role and duty to respond to their family as the saying goes that “harmony between wife and husband always results in success”. Third, Southeast Asia has seen international integration between the East and the West and is experienced in acculturation. Currently, international exchanges are being widened and the entire world is living in cultural symbiosis. Fourth, as the traditional thinking is primeval, we should modernise it and consider women’s emancipation as the perfect whole in social development.

Southeast Asia is selecting and adjusting its own development model. That model should comprise of four factors, which are modern eco-economy and rural urbanisation, medium and small-sized modern industry, modern culture and education imbued with national identities, and democracy and social fairness basing on re-distribution and creating equal opportunities for all social members.

Pham Duc Duong