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This article focuses on the Vietnam Women’s Union (VWU): one of the oldest and largest machineries for women’s issues in the world. This article explores how this mass membership organisation in a socialist state is currently addressing the realities of women’s daily lives and gender relations in Vietnam. It considers the extent to which a mass state-led organisation triggers feminist solidarity. Our research, in one of the local branches of the VWU, examined the organisation’s membership rates, programmes and activities, and its gender-equality objectives. We found that the VWU fails to challenge traditional gender norms, actually emphasising women’s responsibilities in maintaining a ‘happy family’. However, solidarity with the poor is a key concern of the district offices’ agenda and many women do actually benefit practically from their projects. We conclude that the VWU’s main weaknesses emerge from its hierarchical structure and a centrally planned gender policy, which avoids addressing critical power issues.

This article is hosted by our co-publisher Taylor & Francis. For the full table of contents for this and previous issues of this journal, please visit the Gender and Development website.

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