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Keeping silent – the most common reaction to violence

“Many women only dare to say they have a motorbike accident after being beaten by their husbands,” said Ms. Lo Thi Chanh, Chairwoman of Muong Phang communal Women’s Union in Dien Bien district at the inception workshop of project Stand Up, Speak Out: Breaking the Silence around Gender-based Violence among Ethnic Minority Communities in Northern Vietnam (SUSO) taking place on 10 September 2018 in Dien Bien Phu city, Dien Bien province.

Participants at the workshop included representatives of relevant provincial departments and agencies, project communes, and implementing organisations including CARE International in Vietnam, the Institute for Development & Community Health LIGHT, and Dien Bien Center for Community Development (CCD).

Gender-based violence is a tip-of-the-iceberg issue in Vietnam. It is not just a problem of any minority group but of all groups. Ethnic minority women however face specific barriers such as limited mobility and limited ability to communicate in Kinh, the national language, which makes it harder for them to access support services in case of violence,” said Ms. Le Kim Dung, Country Director of CARE International in Vietnam.

At the round table discussion during the workshop, Ms. Vu Dao My, Deputy Chairwoman of Dien Bien provincial Women’s Union said she even knows one village where gender-based violence is widespread and over 90 per cent of the cases are targeted at women. Ms. My also emphasized the fact that many men did not understand what violence entailed. “As long as awareness has not changed, neither can behaviours,” said Ms. My.

Many women hide these incidences and tolerate them on their own without seeking help, according to Mrs. Luong Thi Tuoi, Deputy Chairwomen of Pa Khoang communal Women’s Union.

However, gender-based violence is not just the matter of only ethnic minority people but of various communities with people from different geographical areas and occupations, as stories shared by Ms. Nguyen Van Anh, director of the local NGO CSAGA, showed. “Our work to prevent gender-based violence faces a lot of challenges. Without the engagement of men, it will be very difficult [to prevent gender-based violence],” said Ms. Van Anh.

In the coming time, Dien Bien province plans to organise 14 training classes for policy makers, 20 communication sessions in the communities; and three quarters of the survivors to receive counsel and support; according to Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh from the provincial Department of Labour, the Invalids and Social Affairs.

During 2013-2017, Dien Bien attracted 33 foreign non-governmental organisations with 99 projects and programs whose funding totaled over 17 million USD, according to Mr. Nguyen Cong Son, Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs of Dien Bien cum. Deputy Chairperson of the provincial Committee for Foreign NGO Affairs. Among these organisations, CARE International in Vietnam has had 10 years of operation in the province with projects raising women’s voice and status in ethnic minority communities. “The project will help communities have more knowledge and experience in addressing gender-based violence”, said Mr. Son.