Gender-responsive procurement helps boost women’s businesses in Viet Nam


Author: Thao Hoang

An initiative by UN Women in Viet Nam is contributing to empower small women-owned businesses and spearheading sustainable development by improving business skills and gender-responsive procurement practices.

Trinh Thi Hong, now 60, defied societal norms by launching Minh Hong Ltd. Co. in Da Nang at the age of 50, despite initial skepticism from her husband and peers. The company specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of biological detergent products.

“He [her husband] even refused to have his name associated with the company," Hong recalled.

Her journey began in 2011, inspired by a workshop in the Philippines, where she learned to transform discarded flowers and unused vegetables into bio-cleaning liquid through two years of experimentation.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
Hong’s business has provided part time work for 150 disadvantaged women in Da Nang. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

Today, her business of 6 employees provides income opportunities for 150 women in her communes, who earn up to 7 million VND (250 US dollar) per month by fermenting wasted flowers and vegetables and selling them to Hong's company to produce cleaning products. Minh Hong Ltd. Co. now has 100 agents and 5 distributors and aims to expand further to create more employment opportunities for disadvantaged women.

Following a 6-month-training, coaching, and networking programme provided by UN Women and the Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE) under the UN Women project, We Rise Together, Hong enhanced her product packaging and storytelling techniques, while learning about marketing strategies, procurement processes, and how to build a gender responsive and sustainable business.

"I now understand how to effectively communicate the narrative of my business and products to buyers, setting myself apart," she noted at a business networking event hosted by UN Women in Da Nang in March 2024. The event was attended by 33 buyers in the tourism sector. Notably, these buyers have also undergone training on supplier diversity and gender-responsive procurement facilitated by UN Women and WISE.

With support of the Australian Government through the Mekong-Australia Partnership and implemented by UN Women, We Rise Together aims to create equal market opportunities for women by advancing supplier diversity through gender-responsive procurement in Thailand and Viet Nam. It envisions creating an innovative ecosystem where women can lead businesses, and equally access and benefit from greater market opportunities.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
Hong (left) with her new packaged products at the business networking in March 2024 organized by UN Women and WISE in Da Nang. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

Another beneficiary of the programme is Nguyen Pham Cam Tu, 40-year-old woman entrepreneur and one of the three founders of CAS Ltd. Co., a company specializing in solar and renewable energy in Da Nang. In 2019, she embarked on a pioneering venture by integrating solar energy production with agriculture, specifically raising free-range chickens under solar-powered roofs.

Initiating this innovative model on a 4-hectare solar farm in Ninh Thuan province, Tu set out to raise 2,000 chickens following European Union standards for free-range poultry. The resulting eggs boasted superior quality and commanded higher prices compared to conventional alternatives. However, despite the promise of the enterprise, Tu encountered challenges in sales and marketing.

Photo: Courtesy of CAS Ltd. Co.
Tu’s business specializes in raising chickens under solar panel roofs. Photo: Courtesy of CAS Ltd. Co.

"UN Women and WISE's training and mentoring really broadened my perspective," Tu remarked. Inspired by this newfound knowledge on gender inclusive and sustainable business, Tu and her team of 36 employees have branded their products as a sustainable smart farming, promising triple benefits for farmers, the environment, and the economy.

Despite contributing significantly to job creation and innovation, women-owned businesses often face significant hurdles in accessing critical resources and markets. As a result, they receive only 1 percent of both public and private procurement spending globally[1].

“This is why ‘We Rise Together’ is a game changer. Many buyers have been part of our training programs on supplier diversity and gender responsive procurement. Our strategy actively seeks to include qualified women-owned businesses in the supply chain. This not only promotes economic justice but also leads to a more diverse and resilient business ecosystem,” said Caroline Nyamayemombe, UN Women Viet Nam Country Representative.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
Tu’s free-range chicken eggs at a business networking event in March 2024. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

Following the 6-month accelerator and networking programme for women owned businesses and buyers, and a business connection event in March, Tu secured contracts with two prestigious 5-star hotels in Da Nang, selling at least 20,000 eggs per month, with an expected expansion to other four luxury hotels in the area. Similarly, Hong made strides in expanding her market reach in the tourism sector by sending product samples and quotations to 5-star hotels and advancing negotiations with major distributors in Quang Nam province and Da Nang.

In the coming time, We Rise Together plans to expand its activities to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hue. The goal is to enhance the capacity of 160 purchasing businesses by implementing gender-responsive procurement policies. In addition, the programme aims to enhance competitiveness for 130 small and medium-sized enterprises owned by women, enabling them to actively participate in markets and supply chains.

[1] ITC. 2020. Making Public Procurement Work for Women.