Vu Thi Hien: “I admire the values of the genuine NGOs/civil society”

Going to study in Australia when she was 42 years old, Vu Thi Hien believed that her time in Australia gave her the confidence to pursue the values she believed in and turn them into reality. She would later establish an NGO of her own to help poor ethnic minority people in mountainous areas in north and central Vietnam.

Ms Hien


Hien explained that her new thinking on poverty made her decide to leave her lecturing job at a respected university to establish her own NGO – CERDA – ten years ago. “I witnessed with my own eyes the life of poverty-stricken ethnic families in the northern mountainous areas, and also their high morality despite being poor. They showed pride when applying for government loans. These images haunted me for a long time, and I felt I needed to help these respectable people and who knows, I could impact government policies on poverty reduction, at least at a local level,” she said.

“I wanted to build an NGO because I admire the values of the genuine NGOs/civil society. They are a pillar for social development,” she added.

Under her guidance, CERDA succeeded in various projects to support ethnic minorities in northern Vietnam. As a result, Hien and CERDA took part in many international forums on climate change and biological diversity, including UN conferences to share their experiences and results. Provincial and district governments also had good opinions of these projects and supported their expansion of the models.

One of CERDA’s working areas is the community-based, natural resource management and climate change mitigation with the current focus on Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). CERDA is a member of the Indigenous People’s Global Network on Climate Change and Self Determination (IPCCSD) and REDD+ Vietnam’s Network – Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Ms Hien at a workshop

The projects help local people to access the long-term right to use forests, become capable owners and create sustainable income from these forests. Communities developed better awareness of their rights and the laws. As a result, local people were more responsible toward their community, supporting and supervising the authority’s policies better. Also, the traditional knowledge and customary governance was acknowledged in the authority’s forest management and this was an encouragement for the community to confidently and effectively protect forests. CERDA also paid much attention to gender equality in its projects. As Hien explained, “Before and while implementing projects, we carried out investigations on the causes of gender inequality to find suitable solutions in terms of the culture of each community. Gender awareness needs to be provided to both men and women, so that they could join in analyzing gender inequality of the community and in finding solutions through training workshops and the project implementation process. Cultural elements play a very important role in women’s social participation. We prioritize training for women and giving them opportunities, if they agree and if their participation does not affect their family situation.”

Vu Thi Hien described the impact of her time in Australia on her. “Upon my return from Australia, I had a more clear understanding of the society and made the decisions that I dared not think of before. My time in Australia gave me the confidence, especially in thinking in life and work. I identified clearly the values that I needed to pursue and had the determination to turn them into reality. My confidence and the values that I pursued also had positive impacts on my children, young colleagues, officials and the communities with whom I worked. My English was much improved and helped me much in my work in this age of globalization,” she said.

According to Hien, the Australia Awards Scholarships “made permanent contributions to Vietnam through its education programs.”

“What alumni learned in Australia is not just academic knowledge but methods of thinking from a country with effective rule of law. We could more or less understand what a country needs for development and learn logical, detailed, responsible, transparent methods of working, which in turn, helped us to contribute better to Vietnam,” she said.

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