“We hope you will pay more attention and soon build children's houses and children's sports areas so that our children have a playground to practice, play, entertain and make friends.”
Meetings like this, which are supported by Plan International Vietnam, have proven to be a catalyst in empowering children to speak out about issues close to their hearts.
Through her work as president of her district Children’s Council, Duong has been able to collaborate with 33 child members, conducting extensive research to understand the needs and concerns of young people in the area.
To be fully equipped for their roles, Duong and other members of the Children’s Council were trained in essential research tactics such as interview skills, photovoice, and focus group management. As a result, 1,320 young children, representing 15,000 youths, were directly interviewed by members of the council.
Their findings showed concerns centered on the daily life of children in the district, which included: child marriage, drowning accident prevention and control, parental problems, stimulant use among adults, alcohol, drugs, scarcity of water for children, and lack of books in the library.
In that December meeting, Duong, on behalf of 33 members in the Children’s Council, homed in on the two most urgent issues at the time: drowning and safe playgrounds for children. Due to their well-researched evidence and solid arguments, Duong was able to express the wishes of many to urge the local authorities to start making plans to build swimming pools, design training sessions on drowning prevention skills, and to build safe playgrounds/children’s houses in the district.
More children passionately spoke up about these issues throughout the meeting and the council unanimously decided to build a children's house in the district.
The project brought the community together and attracted many individuals and organizations to volunteer their time, finance the project and donate material to build the children's house.
On June 1, 2021 (International Children's Day), the District Children's House was officially completed, handed over and put into use with a total investment of 850,000,000 VND (37,120$). The project has an area of about 800m2; hosts classes in piano and dance; and it has an outdoor play area and a swimming pool for children to play, make friends, feel safe and learn how to swim safely. After only one month of operation, the District Children's House organized 4 classes, attracting 130 students.
The success of the Children’s Council in this mountainous district, and in many other districts throughout Vietnam, showcases what can be done when girls like Duong are given a safe platform to lead, collaborate and empower other children to have a voice. Communities can come together, children can feel heard, and the health and safety of younger people can be improved.
When girls [like Duong] are given a safe platform to lead, collaborate and empower other children to have a voice. Communities can come together, children can feel heard, and the health and safety of younger people can be improved.
Plan International’s 2021 Asia-Pacific Girls Report reveals how girl activists like Duong are becoming a necessary force for gender equality in the region. The report, presenting the region’s state of girls’ and young women's leadership, finds that girls and young women are working tirelessly to ensure gender-transformative change and social inclusion. Yet the environments in some countries are more enabling than others. Across the region, social and cultural norms continue to contribute to gender inequality and the lack of opportunity.