In love with Vietnam

Naomi Kitahara gives a voice to Vietnamese women

Acting as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Vietnam, Naomi Kitahara has created many projects to support health protection and promote equal rights for women and young girls in Vietnam.
As soon as Naomi took the job in Vietnam in September 2019, she was very happy to work in the developing country which has many cultural similarities with Japan. Her role at UNFPA is to advance rights for women and children and make sure they enjoy a healthy and equal life.

In 2019, when Vietnam conducted its second national study on women's health and domestic violence against women, Naomi and the specialists of UNFPA supported Vietnam in building and formulating national and local policies for Vietnam to successfully accomplish its sustainable development goals by 2030.

Naomi Kitahara - the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Vietnam. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Naomi Kitahara and her colleagues at UNFPA Vietnam. Photo: Thanh Giang / VNP

Naomi Kitahara is impressed with Vietnamese culture,
especially the warmth of the people during the traditional Tet holiday. Photo: Thanh Giang / VNP

Naomi Kitahara talks with Tuong Anh, a student of Tran Phu secondary school, who was selected in UNFPA's 
The State of World Population 2016 report with the theme "Investing in adolescent girls. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang 

Naomi Kitahara at the launch of the S-Health mobile app dedicated to Vietnamese elderly. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Naomi Kitahara attends an international workshop on promoting mental health in ASEAN. Photo: Files 

"I am deeply moved by the thousands of women and girls who bravely share their life stories. Without them, UNFPA investigations cannot be carried out, and violence against women and girls will continue to take place quietly and be obscured in the so-called privacy matters ", Naomi said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Naomi called on partners to join in helping Vietnam to cope with COVID-19, purchasing and supplying essential materials for pregnant women and women at risk of violence.

Among the many initiatives for provision of supporting essential services to victims of violence against women and girls by UNFPA is the “Anh Duong” (Sunshine) shelter, which was built in Hanoi, Quang Ninh, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh. Naomi is very enthusiastic about this project. She affirmed that the new project is a breakthrough to eliminate violence against women and girls in Vietnam.

Additionally, she coordinated many programs initiated by UNFPA to support the Vietnamese government in surveying population rates and promoting the "Say no to prenatal gender screening". In many programs such as "I am a girl" concert, "Have a girl, make money" that UNFPA has employed to raise funds has contributed to spreading the message of Gender Equality in Vietnam.

Naomi Kitahara and UNFPA supported Vietnam in "The in-depth analysis of the 2019 population and housing census" in Hanoi in 2020. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang 

Naomi Kitahara at a forum on protecting Vietnamese women from domestic violence. Photo: Files 

On behalf of UNFPA, Naomi Kitahara hands over health care equipment to medical facilities in Vietnam. Photo: Files

On behalf of UNFPA, Naomi Kitahara hands over
essential items to support flood victims in central Vietnam. Photo: Files

Naomi Kitahara
hands over dignity kits to female farmers in flood-affected central provinces of Vietnam. Photo: Files

Naomi always creates opportunities for girls in Hanoi to work as collaborators with UNFPA so that they can develop their academic abilities and become excellent global citizens. Currently, the UNFPA office in Vietnam has more than 10 female students who are helping with many ongoing children's projects.

In 2020, Naomi received the Certificate of Merit from the government of Vietnam, the General Department of Population of Vietnam and many departments for her efforts in promoting equal rights of women as well as protecting the health of the Vietnamese people. 

Though born and raised in Japan, Naomi's job as a diplomat has taken her around the world. The Japanese woman has more than 23 years of experience in international development at UNFPA in Zambia, the US, South Africa and Mongolia.

Story: Bich Van        Photos: Thanh Giang & Files        Translated by Hong Hanh