JULIE BISHOP:           Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Chairman of Son La People's Committee His Excellency Mr Cam Ngoc Minh, Vice Chairman of Lao Cai People's Committee Mr Dang Xuan Thanh, Ambassador His Excellency Mr Craig Chittick OAM, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here in Da Nang for APEC 2017 and to also have this opportunity to meet with my friend and counterpart and to announce some funding for a very important program.

The provinces in mountainous northwest Vietnam are home to many diverse ethnic minority populations, and there are high levels of poverty and high levels of inequality. The Australian Government is working with the Vietnamese Government to support women in particular to be empowered so that they can take part in the formal economy, in the formal labour market.

Women do face a number of barriers to economic empowerment, and this program, called AUS4Equality, is designed to give local women in these provinces the opportunities to start a business, grow a business, particularly in agriculture and tourism. We hope that through supporting women to be involved in decision-making, in governance, in entrepreneurship, in partnerships with the private sector, we will be able to increase the productivity of these provinces, which will mean more economic growth, which will mean more jobs.

It's been estimated that our program, which is valued at about $33.7 million over four years, will enable about 40,000 self-employed women to enhance their incomes, and we believe that it will add about 4000 additional jobs for women to drive economic growth in the provinces. This is another example of the strong partnership between Australia and Vietnam. We work together on a range of issues, from security and trade and investment, but we also want to ensure that the people of Vietnam can reach their full potential.

So our program, AUS4Equality, is designed to align with the Vietnamese Government's objectives and aspirations to ensure that women will take their rightful place as equal partners in business, in families, in government and across society. So I'm delighted that our Ambassador was able to sign our agreement today.

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