One October afternoon in 2022, nearly 30 female workers employed at Nobland garment factory in Ho Chi Minh City gathered at a local café in District 12, for a meeting organized by CARE. Some of these women had previously participated in CARE’s “I am Strong” program, while others had received financial support for their small businesses from CARE after the COVID-19 pandemic. There were also newcomers who had joined at the invitation of their fellow sewing line colleagues.

For 40-year-old Nguyen Thi My Quyen, this was her first time attending such a meeting. A few weeks before, she had been invited to the event “I am Confident, I am Strong” and found it appealing. She was eager to learn more, so she tagged along with her coworkers, who later introduced her to the activities. Le Thi Hong Tham, 38 years old, had a different serendipitous experience. She had only returned to work at the company three months after the pandemic and learned about this program through an online group chat among colleagues. She immediately registered to participate.

When I returned to Nobland for the second time after the pandemic, I wished the company could have a program or project for me to develop myself. I love learning, but as a factory worker, I didn’t have many opportunities to learn after work,”

– shared Tham.

That day’s meeting marked the beginning of a new project of the female workers in collaboration with CARE International in Vietnam and the Centre for Community Empowerment (CECEM). While CARE had been working with these women for several years, this project aimed to create and promote a space where female factory workers could share their daily challenges, from childcare to family care, and express their personal opinions to improve the working environment. Furthermore, CARE envisioned this space as a place for these women to learn, develop their skills, and participate in making important decisions regarding their work and lives.

For our first session, I suggested naming our group ‘Connecting Trust’ and everyone in the group agreed. We all stood together in the shape of a ship, with me as the sail, and together, we launched the Connecting Trust ship,”

– reminisced Tham.

From that moment on, this space became known as the Connecting Trust group.

The Connecting Trust group meet once a month, usually at weekends, sometimes on Saturday evenings and entire Sundays. Given her previous experience with CARE’s projects, Lang Thi Thao, a 27-year-old member, was trusted to lead one of the initiative groups.

Being a group leader felt quite powerful, but it also came with pressure because we knew the other members expected us to explain everything about CARE, the project, and its activities Additionally, we had to encourage others to join the group. In the early days when the group was newly formed, when we approached our colleagues in the factory, some were hesitant and thought we were involved in multi-level marketing.”

– Thao recalled.

Apart from facing the misconception of involvement in multi-level marketing, most first-time participants encountered various challenges in the early days of the group. Some were constantly questioned by their families, who wondered if their participation would yield any benefits. Others had to convince their husbands to allow them to attend group activities on Sundays. Some even had to overcome the threat of being labeled as ” unmarriable” by their male colleagues in the company.

He said that if I continued with this, I’d never get married. He believed that if I joined this group, we would gossip about our husband and their wrongdoings, and I would eventually become too afraid to get married,”

recounted Kim Phuong, 32 years old. Fortunately, the positive spirit and encouragement from colleagues persuaded Kim Phuong to stay committed to the group.

A typical group meeting would commence with reflections on what they had learned and the journey they had undertaken. Subsequent activities varied depending on the content and the needs of the participants. Sometimes, they would read a story for collective contemplation, while other times, they engaged in team-building games to relieve stress after discussions. Most frequently, they held discussions and shared opinions on the issues that needed resolution within the company. In these sessions, the women were divided into discussion groups and presented their solutions, sometimes they even role-played scenarios. Many of these women, who had previously only come to work silently until end of day, were now encouraged to voice their perspectives. 

My Quyen reminisced:

In the past, I was so afraid, nervous, and couldn’t answer anyone during interviews. If I was in a group with five or more people, I wouldn’t dare to say anything. I’d just sit there, listen and smile, do whatever others did. In the group, the sisters kept urging me to share my opinions. They said that if my idea was good, it would be acknowledged, but if not, just feel free to share.”
The Connecting Trust group created a space where these women had the right to express themselves, were supported in speaking freely, were heard, and could be themselves. The confidence and inner strength they built through these group activities empowered them to step out of their comfort zone.


In March 2023, the Connecting Trust group organized a direct dialogue session with the factory’s board of directors. For many of the women, this dialogue was the most memorable “first time.” It marked the first occasion in their lives when they stood up to express not only their personal views but also those of many other women. Kim Phuong vividly recalled:

My teammates assigned me to give a presentation about our group’s initiative. I was very nervous, but when I stood up there, I occasionally looked around and saw everyone listening to me. I had spoken before, but it felt like no one was really listening. After that session, I told the other women that after this event, I wanted to become an MC!”
Sharing similar feelings, My Quyen also remembered her first time:

At that time, I had just joined the group since November of the previous year, meeting only once a month, which amounted to about 4-5 meetings. I didn’t know how to come up with an initiative or whether it made sense for the company, so I just sat there and listened; I didn’t dare to speak. The other women in the group kept encouraging me, saying, ‘Go ahead and speak up. Share your thoughts, and we will support you emotionally.’ So, I stood up. There were times when I was very nervous, but from that moment on, I dared to stand up for the first time to talk to the management. Before, I had never dared to speak my mind.”
The feeling of equality with the company was a sentiment that many of the Connecting Trust members experienced for the first time after the dialogue. For them, the hierarchy between employees and employers, between workers and the factory, had long been deeply ingrained in their thinking, with the factory management positioned high above, and making suggestions or engaging in dialogue with them seemed impossible. However, after the dialogue, they realized that those people were open-minded and willing to listen to their opinions.
Reflecting on the dialogue program, Nguyen Lien, 35 years old, could not hide her confidence and pride. With prior experience participating in previous projects and being appointed as a group leader in Connecting Trust, Lien summed up the most significant lesson she had learned:

I learned from the group that we should not think of ourselves as inferior to the company or the directors. We are workers, and when we engage in dialogue, we should place ourselves on an equal basis rather than supplicating. It’s not about begging but asking for our rights, as we sit at the same table.”
During the dialogue, the Connecting Trust group presented three topics, one of which was about environmental issues. At times, the area around the factory was not clean, with overflowing trash and stagnant wastewater on the streets. Factory workers had no proper place to have breakfast; they would sit by the planters or on the floor. The landscape in front of the factory was not well-maintained and lacked cleanliness. Observing this situation, the group collected opinions from the nearby residents and workers. During the interviews, many women learned how to record audio, shoot videos, and take photos with their smartphones for the first time. After their shifts, they would roam around the area near the factory, capturing images and gathering people’s opinions. The feedback they collected served as the foundation for their initiative to clean up the environment around the factory, which included sanitation activities, additional chairs purchase, and trash bins instalment.
Mai Thu, 42 years old, remembered,

Back then, I had never spoken in front of a large crowd. When I met older women, they looked at me with suspicion, thinking I might be trying to deceive them, so they were cautious, which made me nervous too. But gradually, I calmed down and had conversations with the women, and they opened up more. After the interview sessions, I looked back and thought it was indeed a memorable first time.”
Gathering information, organizing dialogues, and proposing initiatives not only helped the workers realize their ability to speak up for their legitimate rights collectively but also brought about positive changes in their daily working environment and the community around them. Being provided opportunities for learning and personal growth in a suitable environment, the workers who once felt insecure about their place in the labor-employer relationship could now engage in discussions and exchange ideas to propose solutions that improve conditions both for their community and within their own company. This newfound sense of equality served as the “motivation to move forward,” as shared by My Quyen.


After the dialogue, the women joined hands to prepare for another significant event – Family Day. This activity was one of the initiatives proposed during the dialogue. The idea was to organize a Family Day for the children of Nobland factory workers, where families could share a joyful and bonding experience, interact with each other, strengthen the connection among family members, and provide an opportunity for the women to introduce their workplace to their families.

At that time, despite working all day, the women managed to set aside an hour during their lunch break and stayed late after work to discuss and prepare for the program. Some were responsible for decorations, cutting and pasting props to complete the stage setup. Some were in charge of directing a play, so the women brainstormed the script and took on various roles, even playing male characters like fathers or older brothers. Others prepared games, so they came up with ideas and then purchased equipment for the games. Some volunteered to be the MCs. Determined to become better speakers after their less-than-smooth speech during the previous dialogue program, they practiced speaking repeatedly. In the days leading up to the event, some of these women stayed at the factory until 10-11 PM.

The Family Day event was a resounding success. Initially, they expected around 200 participants, but the actual turnout exceeded 400 people!

What was even more special was the factory’s leadership attending and acknowledging the achievements of the women.

The Family Day event was both an experience for the workers and valuable experience for the factory’s management. Until now, Nobland had never organized such a grand and exciting event, especially one organized by the workers themselves. Without such events, people would just come to work and leave afterwards. But now, when we compare the Connecting Trust group with other workers in the factory, we can see their outstanding performance. They have truly transformed and demonstrated their full potential. In the future, for any program we will involve the Connecting Trust group in organizing it.”

– Mr. Le Phuong Nam, Head of the CSR Department at the company, shared his thoughts.

It can be said that Family Day was a truly special milestone for the Connecting Trust group. These women showed that they could accomplish so much more than being regular factory workers. They took on various roles and responsibilities, highlighting their capabilities beyond their everyday work.


After their initiatives, dialogue programs, and the Family Day event, the women returned to their daily lives, but with a difference. Instead of arguments and scolding their children, the members of the Connecting Trust group had learned to listen, engage in dialogue, and improve their home lives. The sense of equality within the group and within the factory had now permeated their families, where members listened to each other, shared their experiences, and made decisions together, supported not just by their fellow workers but by their loved ones as well.

Seeing the success of the group’s activities, many women started bringing their children along. Thus, in addition to the adult groups that met every Saturday evening, there was also a children’s group. The children participated in discussions and were encouraged to express their opinions, just like the adults. And at the Family Day event, the children were also involved in assisting their mothers in coordinating the booths. Through these activities and discussions within the group, these women gradually changed their parenting approach. From being passive and expecting their children to simply obey their commands, they learned to listen to their children and let them make decisions for themselves, rather than imposing their will. For these women, the journey within the Connecting Trust group was also a process of learning and growing together with their children.
As for Kim Phuong, she was no longer afraid of being single like her coworkers had threatened. Instead of speaking ill of their husbands, the women shared their difficulties and received advice from their peers. Many women improved their relationships with their husbands and families through better communication. They encouraged their husbands to think and make decisions together. After witnessing the achievements of the Connecting Trust group at the Family Day event, the husbands started to change as well. They shifted from suspicion and arguments to becoming a source of encouragement and support for their wives to participate more actively.

Now, father, mother, and children have to learn together,”

– asserted Minh Thuan.


Gradually, the successful initiatives and programs of the Connecting Trust group attracted more women to join. People joined because they saw the value that the group brought. The months spent in the group nurtured the women’s confidence in themselves. They began to believe that they could speak up and create changes.

Although the future journey of the Connecting Trust group may face many challenges in the current context, they are now in a new entity. They possess a determined spirit, unwavering hearts, and a strong connection with each other. Their shared belief has been nurtured together. The Connecting Trust group has created a bond that inspires other female factory workers to learn, engage, and participate in various programs, paving the way for more Connecting Trust groups in the future. The journey of these female workers will continue.

Thanks to the Connecting Trust group, I realized that in life, many things I couldn’t have imagined have happened,” 

– said Minh Thuan.


Beyond the Line:
Connecting Trust