Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Thi is a confident young girl, passionate about child protection and keeping herself and her peers safe from violence. Unfortunately, in her community physical abuse as punishment is common. 

“I have witnessed many acts of violence where I live. In the past, when I saw someone abusing children, I sometimes told my mother. Sometimes I didn’t do anything, or I just ignored it,” said Thi*.

ChildFund Vietnam worked with children and young people in the Hoa Binh Province to help them learn about child protection risks and how they can stay safe from different types of abuse. In one village a group of 30 young people are taking charge. 

“I found out about the group about a year ago and I wanted to join because some of my friends were going to join too. I also wanted to learn more about how to protect myself and how to share this knowledge in front of a crowd. I could also play games about child protection that were extremely useful,” said Thi. 

The group gathers once a month to learn about the risks of child abuse, can seek help when needed, and promote support among children. Thi likes to play – so learning about child protection through fun activities is exciting for her. 

Together, Thi and her friends often come up with creative skits to perform at school assemblies and share what they have learned.

At the meetings, the youth take part in a wide range of activities including information sessions about child-protection, how to identify an unsafe situation at home and how to recognise different types of abuse and how to report it.

The group are guided by social workers and child protection workers from their communities. These meetings are an opportunity for children and young people to report any cases of physical abuse that they’ve seen or heard about. When a report is made, a child protection worker can plan a home visit and work together with the family to eliminate violence in the home.

“When joining the group, I learned to recognise different types of child abuse. Before, when I was scolded by my parents and teachers, I thought it was because I was at fault. During those times, I felt very sad and blamed myself. But after I joined the group, I realised that it’s not just hitting that counts as child abuse,” said Thi. 

Thi is proud to be part of a group that is leading child protection initiatives in her community. Together, they can build a safer, healthier environment for themselves and their peers. She feels empowered with the knowledge to respond appropriately to incidents of physical abuse.

“If I encounter a case of child violence at school, I will notify the homeroom teacher and the school administration. In the community, I would report to a child protection worker, the commune chairman, the village head, the police, and the commune’s Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs officer. I can also call the national child helpline 111 to report the case,” said Thi.

Youth groups are vital to building safer communities for children and young people around Vietnam. Learn more about how ChildFund Vietnam works with communities and partners to build safer communities. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Thirteen-year-old Hoa* lives with her parents and in brother in the Hoa Binh Province in Vietnam. Her home is built on a hillside, isolated from the rest of the village. The family home is poorly built with no doors and no bathroom and provides little safety and comfort for the family.

Hoa’s family relies on selling vegetables, snails and crabs at the local market and her father is a farmer. Making ends meet is difficult and both her parents live with mental health illnesses.

Life at home wasn’t always safe for her and her brother. While she spent most of her time alone, the times her father was present he would often threaten and scold the children. This made her feel scared and lonely.

On the way home from school one day, Hoa was struck by a motorbike driver and her leg was severely injured. Unfortunately, her parents couldn’t afford medical treatment. But their community rallied around the family and paid for her hospital fees.

One year later, she had to go back to have pins in her leg removed but because her parents couldn’t afford it. Now when the weather cools, her leg aches and she can’t walk to school. With no other transport options, she was forced to leave school.

ChildFund Vietnam’s project ‘Improving Child Protection System Effectiveness’ worked with local authorities and communities to intervene and provide urgent support to Hoa and her family. Child protection workers visited the home to talk to her and her parents about child safety and how to manage conflict.

The project also provided funding for Hoa to have the pins in her leg removed so that she could regain full mobility and walk to and from school without any pain. Finally, working in partnership with a Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) project and help from the Youth Union, they built a private bathroom and built doors in the home. 

Now, Hoa is back in school and child protection workers often visit the home to make sure that she and her family are safe and healthy.

Hoa says she feels safer after the visits from the child protection workers. She now has the skills to respond to conflict in the home and knows where to find help if she is in an unsafe situation. The newly built toilet and walls give her a sense of safety and privacy.

“I am very happy to be free of pain in my legs and that I can go back to school. Now I feel like I have brighter opportunities in my future,” said Hoa.

Learn more about ChildFund Vietnam.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.