NFGL Local Network Lund’s Ha-An reflects on Stockholm Gender Equality Forum

Ha-An, Nguyen, a Strategic Communications master's student at Lund University and a member of NFGL Local Network Lund, reflects on her visit to Stockholm Gender Equality Forum in April.

NFGL Local Network Lund's Ha-An reflects on Stockholm Gender Equality Forum
Photo: Narih Lee/Creative Commons

“Tell stories that make it difficult to silence people.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In the three days I spent working as an SI NFGL reporter at the Stockholm Gender Equality Forum, I met and was amazed by hundreds of feminism activists from over a hundred countries who have been fighting a better presence and future of girls and women. 

I feel committed. I feel enlightened. I feel inspired. I feel the change is close. I feel our fight is winning.

I shouldn’t feel a void but I did.

The more I saw of the world, the more I miss my people. I miss the Vietnamese women working on the rice field, the Vietnamese housewives making their home, the Vietnamese colleagues advocating for human rights, and I miss the Vietnamese young journalists who have been abused, sexually harassed at work. I miss their voice.

At one point, Swedish foreign affairs minister Margot Wallström yelled out “Yalla forward!”, joining the global and local movement for Arabic-speaking women.

Her line speaks to me but would her line speaks to Vietnamese speaking women?

Since my arrival in Sweden, I tend to forget how much I struggled to say the word “feminism” in Vietnamese because we simply didn’t have it constituted in our vocabulary.

Ha-An at the Stockholm Gender Equality Forum.

I have become privileged. I have the tools, the language, the foundation, and the policies to empower me in our fight for gender equality. I realise my own responsibility, in this communication career path, for there must be a better communication going on cross sections, cross interests, cross genders, to mobilise resources that we can utilise and build upon as the foundation of our feminist movement.

I will also take the opportunity to rectify the media narratives, to use communication to unmute voices that were once silenced. I find myself dreaming of Vietnamese women representing our country, our South East Asian countries, what will they say? Something similar to this, I bet: Be genuinely inclusive.

Being women, we have witnessed how the world has failed half of its population and we vow not to let it fail again. We have the pride of being a woman as men having the pride being a man. We also know the pain of being a woman, and we believe no one else should know the pain being the gender they are born with.

To build a stronger, smarter, healthier world, we need the involvement of both genders, all sexualities, all races, all ethnicities, all classes, you and me, we and they.

Speak the local language. Meaning that we speak to the problems, the concerns, the context, the benefit of the local people’s own. Only by doing so, our activism can last along the life of the local people, and thus have the intimate impact on their community.

Every single story matters because, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” 

So speak up, participate and change our own stories.


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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.