Mother and Son won prizes of UN Women’s songwriting and poem contest


Author: Ngo Nhat Le

Through compelling verses and melodies, the talented duo of mother and son harmoniously blend poetry and music to champion diversity and equality, resonating with the harmonious call for a more inclusive world.

Hong Diep, 41 and her son, Hai Dang, 17, in December 2023, won the first prize and third prize of the first UN Women’s national poem writing and song composing contest on gender equality in Viet Nam.  The prizes were announced in Ha Noi capital during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to end violence against women and girls.

“I've always believed that equality and gender equality aren't complex academic concepts. In relationships, equality is built on values such as love, respect, and kindness.” Diep shared about her motivation to sign up for the contest. Within 6 months after launching in March, the poem writing contest received more than 300 entries from over 300 contestants aged 6-68 across the country.     

"Nhà Nhiều Cột" (The Multi-pillar Home), Diep’s winning poem, is a simple, three-verse poem that cuts through the socially imposed concepts of gender roles to arrive at unyielding, yet ordinary, love. It was also among the most voted and shared works in the contest by online readers. Penned in a mere 10 minutes, the thought-provoking verses emerged as Diep captured the essence of her reflections on marriage, intending to share them with her husband.

“...Living wholeheartedly,

Just as we are, without distinctions,

No delineation of who handles the significant tasks,

Or who manages the smaller ones

Together, we are pillars of our home

Cultivating love and caring for everyone...”

Illustration: Kim Duan
Award-winning "Nhà Nhiều Cột" (The Multi-pillar Home) poem. Illustration: Kim Duan

In November 2023, when the UN Women’s songwriting contest was unveiled, Diep shared the details with her son and his instructor, encouraging them to sign up. Their soul-stirring song, "Chú Lật Đật" (The Tumbler Doll) clinched an impressive third place in the highly competitive songwriting category, surpassing over 40 entries. Authored by Nguyễn Duy Anh, Phạm Anh Tuấn, Bèo Band, and Sound of Angels Production, the song showcased the collective talent of its creators, with Hai Dang playing a crucial role in crafting the bassline and contributing to the comprehensive composition.

Hai Dang and his teammates (Nguyễn Duy Anh, Phạm Anh Tuấn, Bèo Band & Sound of Angels Production) on the stage receiving their third prize of Gender equality songwriting contest. Photo: UN Women/Nguyen Duc Hieu

Inspired by the real-life struggles of a member of all-female rock band being bullied during an art project, the song was created not only as a heartfelt consolation toward her but also for every girl and woman navigating challenges in the pursuit of their dreams and passions. The lyrics convey a powerful mantra of resilience: “Hey little girl, despite life's challenges, we'll keep standing tall because you are a tumbler doll”.

Photo: UN Women/Nguyen Duc Hieu
The “gender-quality” family of Hong Diep at the poem exhibition. Photo: UN Women/Nguyen Duc Hieu

Discussing the "equality value" inherent in her family, Diep emphasized that “the core of equality is all about not letting stereotypes or biases tie us down”. “When I make mistakes, I will apologize and listen when they point out where I fall short. Fostering equality and navigating parenthood is an ongoing learning experience”. In their family dynamic, shared responsibilities, including household chores, are crucial for development, reinforcing their collective commitment to equality.

Hai Dang considered UN Women’s competition a unique opportunity for him and his passionate artist friends to unleash their talents and advocate for positive changes in gender issues. “In the long run, I will continue to apply art as a powerful catalyst to create a better society,” said Hai Dang. He expresses his future plan to compose music for his mother's poems.

 “Music and poetry possess a unique ability to delve into the human soul, transcending all boundaries and inspiring a sense of unity in the pursuit of creating a world that is more just and equitable for every individual in society." said Ms. Caroline Nyamayemombe, Representative of UN Women Viet Nam at the award ceremony and concert of the contest.

UN Women’s Gender Equality Poetry and Songwriting Contest concluded in Hanoi in December 2023, held in commemoration of the 2023 National Action Month for Gender Equality and the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. With the support from the Australian Government, the event aimed to enrich Vietnam's creative landscape and amplify messages of gender equality by fostering community engagement through various artistic forms. A 7-day poetry exhibition, "Poems on the Kites”, showcasing over 40 outstanding entries, accompanied the award ceremony at the Viet Nam Women's Museum attracted nearly 2000 visitors.