What we do

Improving nutrition for hundreds of Cham H’roi children

Located in the remote mountainous area of Phu Yen province, 100% of Phu Mo commune’s residents are of Cham H’roi ethnic group. 25% of the children in the community are malnourished. Being aware of this situation, MCNV has cooperated with local partners in Phu Yen to bring about better meals and better lives to the children.

Malnutrition obsession

On contrary to the name which means “rich and fertile”, Phu Mo is known as the highest, remotest and poorest commune in the southern central province of Phu Yen.

With a population of more than 3,000, 70% of the local residents are impoverished or living on the threshold of poverty.

Local people earn their living on shifting cultivation, earning for their livings mostly by planting cassava. Due to the instable price, this crop only can help them generate a limited and instable income. Rice, cassava leaves, wild vegetables and chili mixed with salt are what usually seen in their daily meal.

According to a survey conducted by MCNV and Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy in March 2018, 76.7% of the households in Phu Mo and Xuan Quang 1 communes (Dong Xuan district) did not have sufficient food to eat each year. Besides low income, people in these localities face with another challenge in access to food, which is the shortage of supply, since most nearby groceries only sell dried food like instant noodles, porridge and snack for kids. Meanwhile, in kindergartens, neither lunch nor breakfast is provided due to the lack of funding.

In Phu Mo commune, out of 100 kids, 25 suffer from malnourishment, in the form of stunting or underweight. In some villages, this rate even exceeds 50%.

Mang Thi Su, 25 years old, is a mother of two children: one boy (6 years old) and one girl (3 years old). Both of them were pale and weak, due to malnutrition. Feeding the kids was a tough job for the young mommy, since regardless of how hard she tried, her children kept refusing to eat.

Mang Thi Su prepares a meal for her children

According to MCNV, the high rate of malnutrition in Phu Yen is caused by several factors. Apart from economic constraint and scarcity of quality food supply, parents’ lack of understanding and knowledges in childcare and nutrition is a critical factor which must be tackled.

Awareness change

In June 2018, the concerns of Su and other women in Phu Mo commune began to be relieved thanks to the project “Scaling up of malnutrition fighting initiatives based on agricultural solutions in the mountainous areas of Vietnam and Laos ”(referred to as Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture – NSA), implemented by MCNV.

Thanks to the project, for the first time, Su gained basic knowledge in nutrition, learn how to prepare suitable meals for her children with tasty, nutritious yet still affordable dishes.

The instruction of nutritionists and healthcare advisors has enabled Su to diversify the ingredients for the daily meals, and turn them into child-friendly dishes (pleasant to taste and easy to digest). The dishes Su cooks now looks more catchy, as they are added the colors of a variety of healthy ingredients. Some of them are very easy to find in her home garden, such as tomatoes, carrots, eggs, etc.

Nowadays, in Su’s family’s every meal, the pleasure has replaced the worry, and the excitement has filled the eyes of the children. Her home is now full of smile and laugher, instead of the sound of scolding and crying. “He (Su’s son) loves colorful dishes very much. He can eat one bowl or even one and a half bowl of rice with food. I am overwhelmed with joy, especially when he finishes eating, sits on a scale and asks me “Mom, how much do I weigh now?” In the young mom’s eyes, happiness sparkles.

The change in one individual step by step leads to the change of a group and later on spread to several groups. Every month or every week, members of each group gather for a meeting, at which they share about the health and nutrition situation of their children. They often exchange opinions and learn from healthy child-rearing examples and update cases that need to be monitored, practicing how to prepare nutritious and affordable dishes.

Joining hands to solve the malnutrition problem

Improving the community’s awareness about nutrition in childcare is one of the many activities conducted in the NSA project. A holistic approach has been implemented with the close coordination of four sectors: health, agriculture, education and private businesses.

Under the coordination of local health staff, district, commune and village workshops and trainings were implemented. Health workers, leaders of mother groups and pre-school teachers are trained in nutrition and environmental sanitation. Children get regular health checkups, and severely malnourished children receive treatment.

In addition, households are trained to increase production, improve nutrition from their own gardens, fields and yard, for example raising chicken to lay eggs, or intercropping with vegetables and fruits.

To increase the quality of children’s meals, the NSA project also gives funding to preschools to provide in-school lunches and breakfasts, as well as orienting the private sector (food and grocery stores) to sell nutritious products such as porridge, cakes, and cereal flour, and facilitating the household to access nutritional products.

The NSA project is implemented by MCNV in Dong Xuan district in the period of 2017-2020, in cooperation with different partners, including WOTRO, the Vrije University Amsterdam (Netherlands), Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry, and Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy.

Not only does it solve the problem of malnutrition among Vietnamese children, the NSA project also supports Lao children in 10 villages of Nong district, Savannakhet province. Currently, the Lao side has completed the initial survey, knowledge sharing and quantitative research survey toolkit, trained on research methods, data analysis, development of intervention plans and organized some initial intervention activities.

MCNV’s nutrition project is an effort towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal No. 2 on hunger eradication, food security, nutritional improvement and agricultural development.

By Phi Yến (Vietnam Times)

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Learning about the use of Innovative Communication Methods (LICM)

Background

Disadvantaged and discriminated groups of people such as handicapped people, older people, HIV/AIDS infected people or people with a different sexual orientation are often shy, tend to stigmatise themselves, and often struggle with feelings of shame and self-doubt.

MCNV’s response

To assist disadvantaged groups in overcoming their shyness and to encourage them to engage in dialogues with a wider public, MCNV has experimented a lot with the use of Innovative Communication Methods (ICM). MCNV uses the term ‘Innovative Communication Methods’ to denounce creative and entertaining styles of communication such as community-based theatre, shadow drama, narrative story-telling, body mapping, songs, dance and participatory video.

The experience was so successful that MCNV decided to expand the application of the ICM approach to other areas of work including awareness raising on health issues and policy advocacy in areas like garbage collection and Sexual and  Reproductive Health and Rights. The ICMs that MCNV supported to use in Vietnam included theatre based approach, puppet plays, participatory video, dance and folk singing.

 

Achievements

The use of arts (drama and songs) improved the social status of both the Village Health Worker Association (VHWA) and Community Based Organisation (CBO) they cooperated with.  Besides that, the Village Health Worker Association (VHWA) and Community Based Organisation (CBO) members became more confident of themselves through the use of arts and became less afraid of speaking out in public meetings. In 2015, Disabled People Organisations (DPOs) and Old People’s Organisations (OPAs) in ethnic minority areas of Quang Tri province managed to collect Eur 30,000 from their communities through campaigns and public meetings where they performed drama and songs, and they use this money to sustain their community development activities. LICM demonstrated its positive contributions to advocacy as well. For example, in 2014, the Old People’s Organisations (DPO) in Quang Tri successfully lobbied for an increase of the budget of the district allocated to old people’s health by organising lobby events during which they performed drama.

Future plan

Recently, MCNV obtained funding of OXFAM-NOVIB and HIVOS to experiment with the use of ICM in Laos as well. MCNV will assist three vulnerable youth groups i.e. handicapped youth, LGBTQI youth and girls working in garment factories in Laos in using ICM for their own empowerment and for advocacy. The project allows MCNV to enlarge her experience in this field and promote the method further.

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Collaboration And Networking To Enhance Education and Nutrition (CANTEEN)

Background

Improvement on nutrition and food security continues to be MCNV’s work priorities in Laos and especially in the areas where more ethnic minority groups are living. Nutrition and food security are closely interlinked and requires multi-sectoral approach as per the 8th National Social Economic Development Plan by the Government of Lao PDR, which states: “Nutrition is one of the sectors that faces challenges in the implementation since it is associated with several sectors such as food security, food access and food consumption. To counter these, it requires effective collaboration and shared responsibilities among the concerned agencies including sector of health, education, agriculture, environment, industry and commerce, etc.[1]”.

MCNV’s response

In Lao PDR, MCNV has recently started CANTEEN programe (Collaboration And Networking To Enhance Education and Nutrition). This is a 4.5 year-program (between Jan 2017 – June 2021), which is funded with 75% budget contribution by the EU delegation to strengthen the capacity of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Local Authorities (LAs) to work in partnership towards the achievement of development goals. The programme has two specific objectives as follows:

  1. To build the capabilities of at least 6 LAs, 1 non-profit association (NPA) and 20 village development committees (VDCs) to work together to deliver nutrition sensitive services that improve food security, nutrition, and overall well-being of more than 6,000 poor ethnic minority people in 20 remote upland villages in Nong District, Savannakhet province.
  2. To strengthen capacity in policy dialogue and promote participation, transparency and accountability in multi-sector partnerships to encourage the uptake of successful models and to increase involvement of CSOs in development processes.

CANTEEN works closely with CODA (a Lao NPA – non for profit association) and Provincial Health Department of Savannakhet province to promote collective and coordinative working among different local authority organisations and community based organization in Nong district to work together for improvement in nutrition and food security at village and district levels. The experience and lesson learnt from such multisectoral coordination will contribute to and be shared with other stakeholders at provincial and national levels who are working together to improve the situation of nutrition and food security in Lao PDR.

Expected results

During its 4.5 years implementation, CANTEEN program will support a range of activities in order to achieve the following expected results:

Expected result 1.1: Strengthened capacities of the participating LAs, CSOs and CBOs to deliver relevant, effective nutrition services to marginalised and vulnerable people, in particular women and children: This focuses on strengthening capacities of participating CSO and LA organisations and their staffs and members. The specific paths for capacity-building will be designed based on analysis of current gaps and future needs of each participating organisation. For the 20 participating Village Development Committees (CBOs) the Action will use a small-grant support scheme to help them improve their skills by practicing a full cycle of small experimental projects.

Expected result 1.2Reduced malnutrition and food insecurity in target villages through adoption of convergent approaches that include key stakeholders in health, agricultural and education sectors: This is designed specifically to demonstrate effectiveness of the convergent approach in reducing the incidences of malnutrition and food insecurity in the selected villages. This emphasises the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. All sectoral interventions (i.e. educational, agricultural or health) are designed for nutrition sensitivity and are aimed at generating evidence on how to contribute to reduction of food insecurity and malnutrition. The proposed interventions under this refer to 14 of the 22 priority actions identified in the recently published National Nutrition Strategy to 2025 and Plan of Action 2016- 2020, designed to reduce malnutrition rapidly and sustainably with an emphasis on gender equality and the rights of women and girls.

Expected result 2.1: Increased effectiveness of institutional environment for CSOs and LA, with stronger networks that have better capacity to advocate for sustainable approaches using evidence arising from the action. This will show the up-scaled and sustainable interventions in Nong District, using evidence-based advocacy to argue for their replication, adaptation and adoption in other areas of Lao PDR. It will strengthen links with civil society networks such as the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)-Alliance. This adds value to GoL’s plans, as it currently is expanding the rollout of convergent approaches to other provinces, including Savannakhet, and will be seeking evidence and support for effective implementation and expansion.

[1] The Five Year National Social Economic Development Plan VIII – 2016 – 2020: part I: 7th NSEDP 2011-2015: achievement and lessons learned. Lao PDR.

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Nutrition sensitive agriculture in Lao PDR and Vietnam

Background

Despite significant development progress in recent years, hunger remains a significant problem in Lao PDR, with 44% of children under 5 years old being malnourished placing their lives at risk and damaging their lifelong health. This issue is particularly severe in Nong District, one of the poorest areas in Lao PDR, and where the people can suffer food shortages for many months in the year. To tackle these problems MCNV takes a nutrition-sensitive approach to its agricultural and livelihoods work within some of poorest villages in the district.

MCNV’s responses

This approach seeks to maximize agricultures contribution to nutrition and recognizes the multiple benefits derived from enjoying a varied and nutritious diet, the social significance of food and the importance of agriculture in supporting rural livelihoods. Instead of focusing exclusively on crop production for the market, villagers use their land to cultivate a variety of commodities including fruits, vegetables, small livestock and fish. In Nong, MCNV has supported this approach by supporting the development of fish ponds, providing seeds and equipment for home gardens and strengthening village veterinary services to ensure healthy livestock. MCNV’s approach to agriculture also entails promoting gender equity, and providing nutrition education so that household resources are used to improve nutrition, especially that of women and young children. For example, the approach looks at the division of labour between men and women, to ensure mothers have enough time to breastfeed their infants. Finally, MCNV adopts a multi-sectoral approach to nutrition linking agriculture to sectors that address other causes of malnutrition, namely education, health and social protection.

Achievements

Through working in partnership with organisations ranging from village development committees to the Ministries of Agriculture, MCNV has improved agricultural production whilst preserving the soil, land and water that villagers depend upon, but most importantly it has helped to reduce hunger and malnutrition improving the health of children with lifelong benefits.

Future direction

In the coming years MCNV is working with the Food and Business Knowledge Platform and VU University in the Netherlands to conduct research into the impacts of nutrition-sensitive agriculture to ensure that it can be scaled-up so many more people in Lao PDR and elsewhere can benefit from this approach.

http://knowledge4food.net/research-project/scaling-up-nutrition-sensitive-agricultural-initiatives-in-vietman-and-laos/

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Learning through health research

Background

Research is vital for informing and underpinning MCNV’s interventions and ensuring that we can understand their impact. It also helps to ensure that knowledge is generated to inspire new ideas, catalyse innovations, and provide evidence to policy makers to inform their decision making and help ensure that policies are effectively implemented. The publication of research also helps to inform others of new processes, methods, techniques and ways of thinking that contributes to improved ways of working to reduce poverty and improve health.

MCNV’s responses

In Lao PDR, MCNV runs the LEARN (Lao Equity through policy Analysis and Research Networks) this a 5 year program that is funded by the EU Commission to enhance the capabilities of public health institutes in Laos. Working together with a range of partners the program aims to ensure that the Laos National Institute of Public Health becomes of centre of excellence for the provision of evidence-based and contextually adapted policy advice. This evidence is used to enhance decision making and improve the implementation of health policies both within Laos and the wider Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS)

LEARN brings together a unique range of partners to achieve this goal. As well as the Laos National Institute of Public Health, LEARN also brings together the University of Health Sciences in Laos, the VU University in the Netherlands, the Hanoi School of Public in Vietnam and MCNV, an international NGO that has been working in the health sector in the GMS for many decades.

These partners come together to help ensure that:

  • Effective and convincing evidence is available to policy-makers who are better able to use it for policy making and programming
  • The National Institute of Public Health and its partners have increased access to finance, skilled human resources and information.
  • Researchers are able to produce high quality research and are able to convincingly present results and recommendations to a wide range of stakeholders.

Expected results

During its 5 year implementation the program will support a range of activities including;

  • International scholarships for Lao researchers to gain Phd’s
  • A joint Masters in Public Health Program between University of Health Sciences and Hanoi School of Public Health
  • Upgrade of IT facilities and introduction of public health e-learning resource centre
  • A research grant scheme to support the production of high quality research with Laos
  • Development of a long-term strategic plan for National Institute of Public Health
  • A wide range of workshops and trainings in areas ranging from ethics, transdisciplinary research practice, and production of policy briefs.

In addition to this major project, MCNV also conducts research in a wide range of areas including the impact of its agricultural interventions on nutrition and how these can be scaled-up, the use of IT in development, the control and prevention of malaria, the effectiveness of self-help groups in empowering people living with HIV and examining barriers to policy implementation in areas as diverse as the provision of mental health services and access to mother and child healthcare. Research is often conducted in partnerships with Dutch Universities such as VU University. The research is action-based and reflective and is designed to ensure that all people are involved in the process, for complex issues such as malnutrition, multiple stakeholders and engaged in the research and transdisciplinary approaches are used. MCNV’s works in research helps us to understand better the world around us and ensures we can support people within development processes to make the world a better place.

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Stimulating Entrepreneurship among vulnerable groups

BACKGROUND

Entrepreneurship is about leadership, innovatively, creativity and about envisioning and exploiting possibilities. Several programs have shown the positive influence of entrepreneurship on poor and marginalised people. When they find ways of earning money they feel respected, it helps them to get into daily routines, and it makes them proud to be able to contribute money to their families and communities. The development of different types of Community managed Development Funds combined with entrepreneurship trainings and trainings on financial literacy, have already assisted thousands of people to improve their living conditions. MCNV plans to increase activities in the field of entrepreneurship especially in Vietnam.

MCNV’S RESPONSES

The market economy offers a proportion of marginalized people chances to escape their poverty. However, many face barriers of access, lack necessary capabilities or do not recognize, or even believe, that they have chances. For this reason it is important for MCNV to study and take into account how local market systems work and identify barriers and facilitators for access by marginalized groups. The work with market systems takes various forms in different programs/projects, and at different levels of development.

Almost all ethnic minorities were dependent on self-subsistence farming and have increasingly come into contact with ‘the markets’. First the traders came via the new roads (opened for ‘development’) to them from elsewhere to buy agricultural products at the farm gate. But after that these traders established shops right in the farmers’ communities and used their knowledge and networks to become ‘middlemen’ between the local producers and outside markets. The impact of these middlemen is manifold: on the one hand they help poor farmers creating new sources of income, new crops and agricultural knowledge, but on the other hand it is in their interest to keep the farmers dependent on them, for instance via debt traps and protecting their local monopolies. In the Community-Managed Health and Livelihood Development project in Khanh Hoa province (2004-2016), MCNV has worked long with ethnic minority communities to help them increase their aspiration, self-confidence and knowledge and to gradually reduce their dependencies on the middlemen, as well as on the local government.

A next step in ‘working with the market to alleviate marginalisation and poverty’ is best illustrated by MCNV’s Microfinance projects, such as that managed by the Women’s Union in Ben Tre, where poor women groups learn to save and invest money to set up and grow small businesses. Basic “financial literacy” is often lacking among the marginalised target groups and therefore MCNV is building this capacity among many groups, like for Disabled People’s Organisations to know how they could act best to maintain and gradually grow their Revolving Funds.

Future plan

Many further steps are needed to make the market work best for the poor. A large majority of Vietnamese farmers are small-holder farmers who certainly do not lack entrepreneurship or financial literacy, but they are poorly organised, which significantly decreases the influence and the “Value Chains” of their products. In Quang Tri province, Vietnam, MCNV is developing relationships with farmer’s cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. In the near future, MCNV intends to link these initiatives to farmer groups and value chain development in neighbouring area’s in Lao PDR, thus enhancing cross-border value chain development.

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Sexual & reproductive health for teenager in Huong Hoa

Background

Huong Hoa is a remote district of Quang Tri province, located in the border area Vietnam – Lao PDR. The district has a total population of nearly 80,000 in which above 50% are people from ethnic groups of Pacoh and Bru Van Kieu. In the villages along the border area where MCNV works, out of total population of 12,353 people, there are 1,999 poor households (16.2%) and 9,835 ethnic minority people (79.6%).

The Pacoh and Bru Van Kieu have no written language and have limited access to educational information and quality health services. They mainly live on growing banana, cassava, corn, and some rice, and practice shifting cultivation on the poor highlands. They work hard but obtain insufficient income to afford health and educational services. Similar to other ethnic minority groups in Vietnam, as a consequence of poverty and low awareness, they lag behind in all aspects of the development process.

Problem

As a cultural custom, teenagers of Pacoh and Bru Van Kieu ethnic groups are allowed by their parents to date quite freely, and they are allowed to get married, too, when they are still very young. Having sex is almost unavoidable among teenagers. The problem is that so many of them do not have enough basic knowledge in SRH, putting themselves always at risk of bearing unexpected pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). While SRH is not taught at schools, teenagers in this remote area also have limited access to educational messages about SRH through other channels of information. And even if they are aware of problems related to SRH, they avoid talking about it as it is too much “sensitive” or “private” to talk about.

A baseline survey done with teenagers in this area in 2013 has given shocking data – 56% of teenagers under 16 already experienced having sex, 78% didn’t know how to protect themselves from STDs, 14% of teen-girls got unexpected pregnancy, and 97% didn’t prove that they had enough basic knowledge in contraception.

MCNV’s responses

Since mid-2015, MCNV has launched a project to help tackle this problem. We started with co-creation workshops with some groups of active teenagers and village health workers (VHWs) selected from two piloted communes of A Tuc and A Xing. Co-creation workshops enabled the teenagers to get basic understandings about SRH, analyse their real problems, identify practical solutions and come up with an action plan. A story-based approach was applied so that the teenagers could share true stories that happened as a consequence of unsafe sex practices in their community and, with technical support from MCNV staff and the VHWs, re-formulate the stories in the form of shadow drama and puppet shows. The teenagers then presented the shows in combination with community events and interacted with the audiences about SRH aspects related to the stories. The community events were organized every month by the teenagers with the participation of peer/interest groups – youth football clubs, and RAP and hip-hop groups.

In parallel with this way of behavior change communication, some teenagers also volunteered to sell condoms at home, which was more easily approachable to the young people. In contrast, condoms could be easily found at the commune health stations, but the teenagers would never come there to ask for.

Another solution was to use the photo-story telling technique to tell the stories in the form of animations and shared them on the social media to reach and interact more with the online community. We also used a mass instant messaging service to deliver educational messages about SRH for teenagers in this remote area in a weekly basis.

Achievements

One of the most significant change, as revealed from 40 in-depth interviews and 4 focus group discussions recently with the teenagers directly involved in the project, is that they have changed their mindsets, attitudes and behaviours about SRH at teenage and actively communicated with their friends, families and neighbours to raise their awareness about this topic, which they never dared to speak out before.

Four small groups of teenagers, about 10 members each, have produced 4 shadow plays and 4 puppet shows and used them for behavior change communication events and for online communication.

An added value of the project was the increase in the teenagers’ power and motivation to make contribution to the community development, which they thought before to be the adults’ affairs. They have become more united for it, as well. There used to be tensions and conflicts among different groups of teenagers, making them not dare to go from one commune to another for fear of being beaten. Now they have become friends, instead.

Further evaluation will be done in the coming time to see changes in SRH knowledge, attitudes and practices among more than 600 teenagers and older young people in these two communes.

Future plan

We expect to maintain this project in these two communes and upscale it in other three neighboring communes of Huong Hoa district in 2017 and 2018, directly benefiting to about 1,300 teenagers and older young people. In this new phase, we will promote the role of local leaders, parent groups and schools (both high schools and secondary schools) in changing SRH practices among teenagers. In addition, we will collaborate with the district and commune health centres and the Association of VHWs in applying e-health initiatives in SRH communication.

Good practices and lessons learnt from this project will be documented and shared with relevant organisations and networks, such as UNFPA, Barefoot Guide Alliance, ARROW, ADF, WGNRR, and the Vietnam’s health sector and policy makers.

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Women empowerment

Background

Women empowerment refers to the multi-dimensional development that supports and enable women to take control over their lives and control their future. MCNV focuses on the most disadvantaged groups; the poor rural women under the negative influence of climate change, isolated women in mountainous and remote areas, and women living with disability or HIV/AIDS. Among all projects MCNV supported in Vietnam, women empowerment became a cross-cutting theme to guide our work with particular attention to gender issues and women’s development specifically. In Ben Tre province, MCNV implements a specialized Women Empowerment program which focuses on comprehensive support on women, from economical inclusion through microfinance to improving the political participation by women through elections.

MCNV’s responses

Having a cow is a big asset for poor women. The cow helped her to gain more self-confidence and respect from others

Through microfinance projects, MCNV has made inclusive financial services available and accessible to more than 10 thousands women in Vietnam and contributed to positive changes in their lives. Women who live in rural and remote areas bear a double burden, taking care of their family and children while simultaniously generating an income with normal labor. Household burdens limit women when it comes to finding a wage job, this is due to the job locations being in the city, far from their homes and family duties. So self-employment opportunities created by household micro-entrepreneurs allow poor rural women to earn their own livings and at the same time, being able to complete their housework. The Women Empowerment microfinance project in Ben Tre has provided a wide range of inclusive financial services including credit, saving, health insurance, loans for production groups, loans for building water containers (for drought and salinity preparedness), together with financial literary and training for poor women. These services have helped more than one thousand impoverished women better the quality of their lives and increased their income and social status.

Achivements

Monthly credit group meetings is a good opportunity to learn and share among poor women

Monthly credit group meetings is a good opportunity to learn and share among poor women

Through the microfinance and livelihood development activities, women have more changes and solidarity to perform and contribute better in community work. Regular (monthly) meetings enable them to voice their matters; exchange life experience and production knowledge; and learn from each other. That self-learning process was created and maintained by MCNV projects and has become a sustainable mechanism to empower women. Through the years, many at MCNV have witnessed several examples of life improvements. Poor women became more self-confident and more skillful in production and doing business. The neighborhood and relationships were very much improved which enabled women and also men to care about and help each other.

Ben Tre women who joined MCNV capacity training for People Committee election's candidates

Ben Tre women who joined MCNV capacity training for People Committee election’s candidates

A great step forward for women empowerment is the improvement for their political participation. More female delegations in the local government could ensure the rights and voices of women to be heard and respected. Ben Tre province is the first province in Vietnam to have a project intended to improve the successful rate for women in People Council’s election. Online survey tools were also used to collection ideas and data from the field. The successful rate for women in 2016 election had increased to 28% of total People Council comparing to 22% in the last election in 2011.

Future direction

Enhancing the ongoing women empowerment efforts and sharing our experience widely to other provinces in Vietnam as well as to other countries is the target. We are now cooperating with the Center of Women and Development to start a media development project which could film the best practices and methods in this field and share the experiences widely throughout social network to advocate for women’s development.

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Civil Society Development

Background

Civil Society embraces the general public at large, representing the social domain that is not part of the State or the market. Civil Society is a sphere where people combine their collective interests to engage in activities with public consequence. The increasingly accepted understanding of the term Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is that of non-state, not for-profit, voluntary organizations formed by people within the social sphere of civil society. These organisations draw from community, neighbourhood, work, social and other connections.

The Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) encouraged disabled people to share their dreams, to develop personal plans, and to help them to make those dreams and plans come true. As an organisation we grew our capabilities to support the holistic development of individuals, families and groups of people with disabilities (written by a disabled person from a village in Quang Tri Province during a reflection session in 2015).

MCNV’s response

MCNV has increasingly strengthened and cooperated with CSOs over the years. CSOs have become an increasingly common channel through which we assist elderly, women with HIV/AIDS, ethnic minorities, youth and People with a Disability (PWD) to exercise citizenship and contribute to social and economic change. The involvement of Community Based Organisations that are organised by the marginalised people themselves, ensures their full participation in our programs.

Besides working with a myriad of Community Based Organisations in Lao PDR and Vietnam, MCNV also collaborates with civil society organisations at provincial and national level. For example, MCNV has established and cooperates with provincial ‘Village Health Workers Associations’(VWHAs).

In the health system we are so close to villagers that people call us the “long arm” of the health sector. Our Village Health Workers Association was founded in 2006, and now has 1,115 members based in 138 communes in nine districts and towns of the province. On basis of our experiences in Quang Tri, two other Village Health Workers’ Associations have been established in Cao Bang and Phu Yen provinces, in 2010 and 2011. We for example support the Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) and Old People’s Organisations (OPA) in fundraising activities. We also assist the Community Based Organisations to prepare dramas or to make video clips to lobby and advocate for better health practices and policies (Interview with Board Member of Village health Workers Association, 2015).

Achievements

To date, MCNV has strengthened and collaborated with over a hundred CSOs and CS movements in Lao PDR and Vietnam. In addition to that, MCNV has provided Technical Advice to Civil Society Partners in Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Georgia, on the strengthening of Civil Society Organisations in their country.

Through CBOs and their clubs, peer-to peer support is channelled and improvements in policy implementation and policy development are lobbied for. For example, Old People’s Organisations in Quang Tri successfully lobbied for an increase of the district budget for health of the elderly.

Due to the flexible characteristics of CSO organisations and due to their profound local knowledge on the culture and values of communities in remote areas of Lao PDR and Vietnam, they are in an excellent position to collaborate with other societal groups in experimenting new approaches in health and sustainable livelihood. For example in Lao PDR, the CBOs at village level named ‘Village Development Committees’ (VDC) have been partners of the district department of agriculture in experimenting new rice varieties, cattle raising and fish ponds.

Trust relationships between villagers and district partners has improved. The VDCs are able to articulate the needs of the ethnic minority groups in the villages and this has led to more communication and achievements of program interventions in the villages. (Interview with consultant evaluating the program in Lao PDR, 2014).

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Support women living with and affected by HIV

Background

HIV/AIDS epidemic has become the most emerging public health problems in Vietnam since 1990s. By the end of year 2015 there was a total of 227,000 people living with HIV while more than 75,000 people have died from AIDS. In estimation about 14,000 new cases of HIV are founded every year.

During 12 years working in HIV/AIDS area, MCNV had a considerable contribution to Vietnam HIV/AIDS situation in establishing and providing support to a community – based organization of women who are living with HIV, called Sunflowers, in seven Northern provinces in Vietnam. The program has contributed to improving access to health care for women living with HIV because of the strengthened referral system.

MCNV’s responses and achievements

Beginning in 2004, a group of women living with HIV was established by MCNV’s support. The simple aims were to ensure that, if pregnant, women can access to information and medicine that would help to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child. This initial pilot was successful in achieving its goals, and with the generous support of the Royal Netherland Embassy, it was scaled-up to a further three provinces between 2006 – 2009. In its third phase these achievements were consolidated and the model adapted to suit the needs of people living in remote mountainous regions. Then the program covers seven provinces and the Sunflowers group supports over 1,500 women living with or affected by HIV/AIDS and their families.

The Sunflowers groups help to ensure that they can overcome the barriers and obstacles they face to live active and fulfilled lives. This support comes in many forms, it includes: counselling and care at home and in hospitals, support to secure stable livelihoods, assistance with children’s education, and engagement with the community to reduce stigma and discrimination. Over more than 12 years the program has demonstrated that when women living with HIV work together their confidence and self-esteem increases enabling them to become powerful advocates for change and developments.

From 2012, after handing over, the network of Sunflowers had worked more independence with its own steering board of national level, and leaders of each provincial group. The Sunflowers are maintaining supports in improving health care access, income generating, and social by monthly meeting, revolving fund, and many supportive events. From this period, overcoming difficulties, Sunflower maintains its groups and networks with many valuable activities. More than 1,100 women living with HIV frequent attend the monthly meeting. Living with poor health status, many leaders of Sunflowers cannot be able to have a longer contribute to their group. Sunflower have refreshed themselves by changing most of group leaders and Network leaders and its structure.

In addition, MCNV provides health care insurance to Sunflower members, therefore, 100% of women living with HIV are protected by health insurance. The program also organizes vivid trainings to cultivate skills and knowledge to Sunflowers and their family members. Specifically, parenting skills were provided to grandparents who are raising orphan children. The training, such as hepatitis C prevention, ARV therapy, pig raising skills have been delivered to members of the Sunflower groups.

Future plan

Currently and in a couple of year MCNV is providing technical and a little financial supports, which is enabling the Sunflowers to be strengthened, and capable to work more independently as a Community Based Organization of women living with HIV, to bring support to women living with HIV continuously.

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