Women’s Union helps survivors of domestic violence during COVID-19 epidemic in Viet Nam

Date: Monday, October 26, 2020

Author: Thao Hoang

Da Nang, Viet Nam — When Hoang Thi Thu Huong became Chairperson of Da Nang Women’s Union in July, colleagues told her that more and more women in the local communities were experiencing domestic violence under the COVID-19 lockdown.

So Huong got her staff to post more information on the problem on the Da Nang Women-Listen and Share Facebook fan page, and to create a series of radio spots to tell people about the different types of violence and to show survivors how to get help.

Members of Da Nang Women’s Union carry loudspeakers to spread the word on how to prevent violence against women. Photo courtesy of Da Nang Women’s Union
Members of Da Nang Women’s Union carry loudspeakers to spread the word on how to prevent violence against women. Photo courtesy of Da Nang Women’s Union

“I just wanted to get the message out there clearly stating that violence against women and children is not accepted and that there are still places they can go and get support to stay away from violence under the lockdown,” Huong said.

Under Huong’s leadership, the Women’s Union established a 14-member steering committee to try to curb the violence after a surge in coronavirus infections forced the whole city into lockdown from July 27 to August 31.

The Women’s Union campaign is being supported by a project called Emergency Prevention and Response to Violence against Women and Children in the Context of COVID-19. The project promotes knowledge and awareness about the violence and improves services for survivors. It is jointly managed by UN Women, United Nations Population Fund and United Nations Children’s Fund, and funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Da Nang Women’s Union steering committee mobilized members of 16 male advocates clubs supported by UN Women to tell women about hotline numbers, safe shelters and other support services and to show them how to protect themselves from COVID-19 and domestic violence. The campaign used social media, printed leaflets and loudspeakers brought onto the streets to spread messages that were created with technical and financial support from UN Women.

Hoang Thi Huong (right) gives milk and cash to people affected by the COVID-19 epidemic in Da Nang. Photo courtesy of Da Nang Women’s Union
Hoang Thi Huong (right) gives milk and cash to people affected by the COVID-19 epidemic in Da Nang. Photo courtesy of Da Nang Women’s Union

Phan Thi Tu Oanh, a steering committee member and the administrator of the Women’s Union Facebook fanpage, said that during the lockdown, she regularly received requests for help from domestic violence survivors through Facebook or Zalo, a popular messaging app in Viet Nam. She connected them with psychological counseling, health care, legal assistance.

“The most important thing is to ensure their safety without the perpetrators finding out,” she said.

Many women in Da Nang also lost their jobs or part of their incomes as a result of the lockdown and social distancing policy. UN Women worked with the Women’s Union and the male advocates clubs to identify 100 survivors of violence and gave them a total cash grant of VND 150 million (USD 7,500). Priority was given to the most vulnerable families, such as those with pregnant or elderly women.

Nguyen Thi Hanh was one of those people. The family income from her small business and her husband’s housebuilding work vanished.

“It easily caused stress and conflicts, so I was very afraid of violence happening at any time,” she said. ““Fortunately, with support from the Women’s Union, my family could overcome the difficulties at this time. The members of the men’s clubs also actively shared information about violence prevention and stress control so that my husband understands better and shares house chores with me."

Members of Da Nang male advocates clubs (in orange T-shirts) distribute rice, milk and instant noodles to vulnerable families. Photo courtesy of Da Nang Women’s Union
Members of Da Nang male advocates clubs (in orange T-shirts) distribute rice, milk and instant noodles to vulnerable families. Photo courtesy of Da Nang Women’s Union

Da Nang’s COVID-19 epidemic is now under control and normal life has resumed. But violence against women and children will not stop, Huong said — “We will have to do more with the engagement of all society and individuals.”

The campaign around COVID-19 complements two other multi-year UN Women projects in Da Nang: Community Mobilization in Prevention of Violence against Women and Building Da Nang to Be a Safe City for Women and Girls. The two projects have benefited more than 7,600 people. More than 500 men and 210 women actively participate in male advocates clubs and core clubs formed under the community mobilization programme.