Vietnam is a patriarchal society, and as a consequence, the prevalence of gender-based violence in Vietnam, including in schools, can be high.
When Plan International surveyed 3,000 students in Hanoi in 2014, 80% of respondents said they had experienced school-related gender-based violence (psychological, physical, and sexual violence) at least once in their life.
80% of respondents have experienced school-related gender-based violence
In the same survey, 31% students reported having experienced physical violence in the last 6 months, while 11% of students surveyed experienced sexual abuse.
In order to tackle this issue, Plan International Vietnam and the UN Trust Fund developed a Gender-Responsive School pilot programme, which works to address the root causes of gender inequality and violence.
The project challenges students and teachers to recognise and challenge gender norms and violence taking place in their everyday life.
“People need more information about gender-based violence, especially for girls and boys. They only think violence is something physical,” said a student from Hanoi.
Through school-based youth clubs, young leaders in Hanoi are holding debates and theatre performances, organising school-wide awareness events, educating teachers and parents and reporting cases of violence taking place in their school.
Determined for change, these young leaders are raising their voices and breaking the silence against gender-based violence.
“I did not know anything about gender-based violence and sexual orientation. I realised by being in this group that this topic is very important and a ‘hot issue’. If more people know about gender-based violence, then they can change their habits. It’s about breaking the silence,” said a female team leader in Hanoi.
“I was often teased. It was hell in school. During grade 11, I joined this group and started to understand that I should be respected for being myself. My differences can be respected. After graduation, I will remember this group. No matter who I am, I can be okay with myself," said one student.
Through the project, 20 schools have been equipped with a counselling office, giving students the opportunity to speak to trained professionals while seeking emotional care and support. More than 1,460 students have sought counselling in these centres.
Outside of the classroom, more than 25,000 mothers and fathers have learned about gender equality and have supported their children to avoid violent behaviours.
Gender-based violence against children and young people can have lasting consequences on their social and psychological health and well-being. Violence has been linked to aggression, intimate partner violence, depression, anxiety and other health problems in adulthood.
In the long-term, the Gender-Responsive School pilot programme aims to provide better protection for students and to help them feel respected and safe in school.
Over the last 2 years, the programme has reached nearly 31,000 students.
If successful, there are hopes that the government of Vietnam will replicate the project across Hanoi, reaching more than 529,000 students.