Socio-economic conditions in Vietnam are especially problematic for unmarried women (single mothers, widows, divorced and childless women). They have generally not benefited from the economical and social boom in Vietnam and live primarily in rural areas in the North of the country, marginalised by society. In the Pho Yen district the rate of unmarried women is significantly high.
A research by the women union of Pho YEN comes to the conclusion that unmarried women are more often affected by gynaecological disorders as well as by sexually transmitted diseases than average. This is also because of their limited knowledge of preventive health care. Because of their low social status these women hardly take part in the social life of the community. Not only do they lack access to social networks, but also to information and health and employment seeking institutions. Many unmarried women are without property and live with their parents. Because they are unable to make their way to economic independence patterns of poverty are perpetuated. The moral concept of their society holds little respect for them and hence they often become victims of marginalisation and stigmatisation.
The project aims to improve living and health conditions of the women in Thanh Cong (Pho Yen district, Thai Nguyen province), a poor community in the North of Vietnam. A total of 15.724 people live there in circa 2700 households. Most of them work in agriculture, alternative income possibilities being rare.
Living conditions are to be improved through:
- Awareness rising of unmarried women as well as of local authorities integrated in the project.
- Improvement of self supply possibilities of unmarried women through education in agriculture.
- Health education (especially gynaecological diseases, contraception and HIV/AIDS prevention).
- Health promotion through regular and free gynaecological examinations.
The project addresses unmarried women in Thanh Cong who are younger than 49 years old. 90 percent of them live below the poverty line, 80 percent suffer from gynaecological diseases. Furthermore local authorities at the district and community level are addressed. They shall be sensitised on gender matters and women’s rights which include those of unmarried women.
The project duration is 12 months. During this period of time, 25 local decision makers were given training on gender and women’s rights issues through specialised DWC trainers. From the third month onwards, five training courses lasting four days each with 30 unmarried women took place, covering gender and health education issues (primarily ‘Safe Sex’, contraception, prevention of venereal and sexually transmitted diseases, menopause). At the next stage of the project the women were trained in agriculture and cattle breeding by trainers from the local centre for agriculture. In addition the women were medically examined with focus on gynaecology as well as general examinations and treatment. Two doctors, a midwife, a nurse and a laboratory assistant from the district health care centre were in charge of examinations. Sensitisation material was handed out to the women concerned as well as to the local population (sets including material on subjects like women’s rights, gender, health education, HIV/IDS prevention and agriculture) Regularly community meetings took place to raise awareness in the local population; the unmarried women being integrated in these meetings. At the final stage of the project, a meeting with actors from the community (women’s union, unmarried women, people’s committee) and actors from the district authority took place.
Project partners in Vietnam
On site the project has been followed by Centre for Promoting Development for Women and Children (DWC), which has project-related collaboration with the local women’s unions from Pho Yen district and the Than Cong community.
The project has been evaluated by our local partner organisation DWC, local project supervisors and local authorities. The project’s aims have been achieved. The economical, health and social situation of the women concerned has been improved significantly thanks to the project. Medical prevention and also medical treatment of women suffering of health problems could be achieved through our health care. Brochures on health issues give advice for a healthier lifestyle.
Thanks to the project unmarried women are now more respected by the rest of the population. A remarkable change was the evolution of the men’s behaviour which was before predominantly scorn and sarcasm towards the women. At a local level the project’s achievements and methods will be integrated into the local measures against poverty and thus perpetuated. Thanks to the voluntary contributions and efforts of the unmarried women the community centres will continue working even after the project comes to an end. Regular training seminars on agriculture on top of the informal meetings with the women are to be set up.