When Ms. Huyen, Chairwoman of Thong Nhat Commune Women’s Union, first became involved in the WILL project two years ago, she was unable to involve her commune in the meetings. She talked most of the time, with minimal community interaction and she had come to a point where she did not know how to change it. Passionate about improving their situation, she wanted to find a more effective way to connect with the local women. Looking back with hindsight, she now realizes it was the methods that were at fault.
Before joining the Thong Nhat Commune Women’s Union, Ms. Huyen worked in various jobs including bus conductor, saleswoman, and car washer, just to make ends meet. Many young women in Vietnam face similar problems, as they have fewer opportunities than men and are under-represented in professional jobs. The burden of household responsibilities is often placed on women’s shoulders, which restricts their search for skilled work. Moreover, local women and girls in Vietnam have limited opportunities to talk openly about issues that affect them and their causes.
To build the capacity of female leaders and staff of CSOs in Hanoi and Hoa Binh provinces, the Vietnam Women Improving Lives and Leadership (WILL) project funded by the United States Department of State (DOS) has been operational since October 2014. Ms. Huyen is one of 64 key CSO staff that signed up, participating in two training courses on strategic communication planning, teamwork, negotiation skills, problem/objective trees, logic frame and proposal writing in 2015. Ms. Huyen said, “I learned a lot from the project and my confidence has grown day by day. I am so pleased that I can now involve everybody in the meeting and the result is positive feedback from meeting participants.”
Like the other commune Women’s Union staff, Ms. Huyen had never used problem tree tools before. The results of pre- and post-tests showed a notable increase in the number of trained staff who could use the tools and a substantial improvement in their communication skills, rising from 0% to 73% and 23% to 65%, respectively. After training, staff participated in eight mentoring rounds to put theory into practice, analyzing a specific women/girls’ issue and understanding how to address it. Ms. Huyen stepped forward to successfully conduct the first activity on domestic violence against women and another on trafficking in women.
Now, Ms. Huyen is confident at using problem tree tools to facilitate group discussions with local women. She learned how to ask open-ended questions to encourage the audience to talk openly about their issues, the causes, and consequences by utilizing the problem tree methodology. Using her newfound knowledge and skills, she has improved at her job and is working to further women and girls’ position in her commune. What is needed to expand the Vietnam WILL project to 210 other communes in Hoa Binh province is an important question for the CSO network and Hoa Binh authorities.
”As the commune’s representative for women who is responsible for presenting their issues to policymakers, the knowledge and skills learned from Kenan training courses have been very useful. Now, I am confident at using problem tree analysis to help women explore the root of their problems, which empowers them to voice their problems directly to policymakers. I shared these methods with 45 members of my women’s union.”