A safe space provides essential services for women and children survivors of violence in Ho Chi Minh City


Author: Thao Hoang

Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam — In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, a groundbreaking initiative is offering hope for women and children grappling with violence and abuse. The People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, with technical support from UN Women, has pioneered a “one-stop shop” model (later named The Dandelion Center) that provides free essential services for survivors in a single place.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
Associate Professor, Dr. Hoang Thi Diem Tuyet (left) and Sarah Hooper, Australian Consul-General in Ho Chi Minh City, inaugurate The Dandelion Center at Hung Vuong Hospital to support women who have experienced violence in November 2023. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

Viet Nam, like many nations, grapples with alarming statistics on violence against women. A 2019 national study revealed that two in three Vietnamese women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their spouse or partner. Shockingly, 90 percent of these victims do not ask for assistance from local authorities, driven by shame, fear, or simply a lack of knowledge on where and how to seek help.

Caroline Nyamayemombe, UN Women Representative in Viet Nam, emphasizes the profound impact of uncoordinated services on survivors. "Suffering physical and mental pain, survivors of violence often have to navigate multiple avenues for help, intensifying their anguish. It's crucial to have a coordinated and safe service that places the survivors' needs at the center."

Experience in addressing gender-based violence shows, health facilities are frequently the initial point of contact for survivors across various age groups, professions, and circumstances. While conducting examinations and providing treatment, healthcare professionals often identify patients who are victims of violence and sexual abuse.

Recognizing this urgent need, Ho Chi Minh City established the first “one-stop shop” center for survivors, The Dandelion Center, which integrates receiving, screening, treating, and providing counseling services for women and children subjected to violence and sexual abuse. Located at Hung Vuong Hospital, the center which is financed by the city budget provides all essential services for survivors, free of charge, in a single place.

Dr. Pham Quoc Hung, Head of the Social Department at Hung Vuong Hospital, explained that survivors no longer have to navigate a maze of different services; instead, they find a comprehensive support system encompassing medical care, psychological assistance, and legal counseling, all under one roof.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
Dr. Pham Quoc Hung (right) explains the operational procedure of The Dandelion Center to donors during a visit in November 2023. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

"The social workers of the hospital will coordinate and contact responsible authorized partners to provide services for the survivors. If they need a safe shelter, we will transfer them to suitable ones," said Dr. Hung.

Le Van Thinh; Director of the Department of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs of Ho Chi Minh City; underscored the significance of the center. "It's a place for intervention, support, and tailored service packages for each victim. We appreciate the technical support from UN Women in building the capacity of social workers and developing victim-centered operating procedures," said Thinh.

Since its establishment in March 2023, the “One-Stop Shop" at Hung Vuong Hospital has offered crucial assistance to 45 women and adolescents who have experienced violence, with most clients reporting sexual abuse. This relatively low number in ten months signals the work required to break the culture of silence. Recognizing its effectiveness and innovation, the model received the Second Prize for Innovation in State Management at the 3rd Ho Chi Minh City Innovation Awards 2023.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
The Dandelion Center facilities. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

"Aligned with national laws and strategies aimed at sustainably eradicating gender-based violence, the one-stop-shop model financed by the city authorities represents a significant stride in building models to improve the quality of care for survivors of violence in Vietnam," stated Nyamayemombe during a visit to the Center in November 2023.

UN Women is grateful for the generous contribution and collaboration with the Government of Australia under the joint programme “Ending violence against women and children,” through which this work is supported.