The activity was initiated in 2012 to honor efforts of girls’ empowerment globally. This year, the focus was on the importance of strengthening digital literacy for girls to ensure a safe and inclusive digital space.

In 2019, the Swedish Embassy became the first Embassy in Hanoi to participate in the Girl Takeover series.

Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Ann Måwe held a discussion at the ceremony. (Photo: The Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi)

Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Ann Måwe affirmed this is such an important event, and stressed: “No country has achieved gender equality. Women and girls are still subjected to systemic discrimination and subordination, all over the world. But despite this, girls are standing up against outdated traditions, norms and laws. Girls’ agency and leadership contributes to breaking the negative cycle. That is why we want to support them and contribute to increasing their visibility.”

This year, 20 year old Y Nhi from Hanoi – Takeover girl in 2021 – had a chance to fill in the shoes of the Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Ann Måwe.

Besides having a tour of the Embassy, she had meaningful discussions with Ambassador Måwe and Phuong Anh, Takeover girl in the last two years, on their challenges and achievements over a year of fighting against COVID-19.

Recalling the Takeover event last year, Ambassador Ann Måwe, Y Nhi and Phuong Anh signed a petition to media companies to act against sexual harassment.

Over the past year, following up with the petition, Plan Global and youths have excelled in youth-led campaigns including listening sessions with Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Maruchatbots for girls, and Future Online research to fight for a better digital world for girls and children. The efforts continue to spread further, as Vietcetera, an emerging media company, has joined this year’s Girls Takeover series.

Swedish Ambassador and two girls empowered in 2019 and 2021. (Photo: The Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi).

They recognized that challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have particularly affected children and girls, interrupting their education, posing greater economic challenges, greater risk of exploitation, child labour and gender-based violence, as well as limiting their access to sexual and reproductive health services. When most activities have to move online, it is increasingly vital to ensure a safe and inclusive digital world where girls are protected and can learn, lead, decide and thrive. However, children and girls are still facing numerous risks online. Among others, the spread of false information online has devastating impacts, especially for girls. 

Phuong Anh shared her concerns over the spread of false information online. “Choices are limited in the time of COVID-19. A large part of our personal and professional life happens on the Internet. Information vital to our physical and mental health and development are accessible online. But it is not easy to identify fake news. False information online has real life consequences, something needs to be done about this,” said Phuong Anh.

Speaking of misinformation and disinformation’s consequences, Y Nhi said: “If children and girls are taught necessary skills to navigate false information online, they are capable of fighting against false truths, misogyny, hate speech, and inequality. This task can only be carried out effectively if people join hands to teach all children about digital literacy.”

Ambassador Måwe reiterated that Sweden was the first country to launch a feminist foreign policy in 2014 to promote gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, and their full enjoyment of human rights. The advanced Swedish agenda on gender equality is the result of longstanding and persistent advocacy by civil society, without which little change will be made in our society.

Ambassador Måwe and the two girls also discussed several initiatives and suggestions on how national governments, as the primary duty-bearers for ensuring girls’ enjoyment of human rights, can increase children and young people’s digital literacy.

Through the activity, the Ambassador gained more insights about gender equality in the digital space in Vietnam, especially through the lens of the young generation and under the impacts of COVID-19.

After their meaningful discussion, Ambassador Måwe and the two Takeover girls signed Plan International’s petition in solidarity with girls who are speaking up about the spread of false information online. The Embassy of Sweden committed to work with youth activists and Plan to promote digital literacy for girls and children in Vietnam.

“More support is needed so that girls and young women in Vietnam and around the world are equipped for an increasingly digitized world, and are confident to step into leading roles,” acclaimed Sharon Kane, Plan International Vietnam’s Country Director. She also thanked Ambassador Måwe and the Embassy of Sweden for the meaningful experience that Phuong Anh and Y Nhi had./.

Minh Van