How to empower women in Vietnam: Day with Hagar

Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Vietnam:

On the morning of April 11, I visited Hagar International’s office in Hanoi, Vietnam hosted by Kelly, Program Development Manager, and staff. The day started off with visiting Hagar’s main office and meeting staff. We sat down to discuss the staff’s backgrounds, current work, and challenges.  I learned about the impact of Hagar, the spearheading of Hagar’s case management and social work within the field for future social workers, and goals for Hagar.

Because social work is such a new field in Vietnam, Hagar staff is working with local universities to bridge the gap between class theory and work.  At Hagar, survivors receive intensive training for 4-6 weeks, personal development, art therapy, and life skills.  The next part of their time with Hagar involves job skills, career training, and goal setting. One of Hagar’s jobs skills partners is Joma Café. Joma works with Hagar by providing a rotating training program in hospitality helping develop these women’s financial and self-independence.

Life Skills with Hagar

Life Skills with Hagar (Photo approved and provided by Hagar, taken by one of their photographers)

I asked the staff to share the most rewarding part of working at Hagar. One said working with the women, and when the survivor shares that it is the first time someone listens to her.  Another said that Hagar is a place people can be and can  cultivate themselves – where one can be authentic. Working there makes them feel proud – where each person feels like they are making a difference.  Another staff member said being part of a learning organization. It’s not just about the numbers, but about each individual client. Hagar’s goal is to run its own shelters.

Next we went to visit Joma Café, where Hagar survivors are able to receive on-the-job training in hospitality, and met some of the empowered women. I met with 2 women – one who had been with Hagar for about 1 year and half and another who was with Hagar for about 10 months.  Let’s say their names are Sara and Mary (to protect their identities).

Vocational Training with Hagar

Vocational Training with Hagar (Photo approved and provided by Hagar, taken by one of their photographers)

I asked them both why Joma and hospitality?  Sara said she thought it was popular, easy to get a job and opportunity, and to meet people. Mary said she liked cooking. Before she cooked at the shelter and was good at it. I then asked if they would like to continue at Joma, and Mary said she hoped to work in her hometown to open a small business. Sara said she wanted to stay with Joma to increase experience and English. I then asked if they weren’t with Hagar and Joma where would they be?  Mary said it would have been difficult to find a job because she lacked skill sets.  Sara said before she wasn’t able to learn life skills, vocational training, and not able to be recruited. It would have been way more challenging. Without support like this from Hagar, they don’t know where their future would be. Finally, I asked if they had any questions for me, and both shrugged. Then Mary stopped, looked at me and said “I never thought I would have an opportunity like this. I want to thank GlobalGiving.”

Through protection, personal well-being, economic empowerment, and social capital women are able to not only survive trafficking but be empowered in their lives to move forward, create a positive and thriving life, and not be a victim.

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Where the bedroom is a battleground… – Fighting against Domestic Violence with WAO Malaysia

“Violence Against Women is deeply embedded … so much so that millions of women consider it a way of life.” – Women’s Aid Organization

In a country where 1 out of 10 women are affected by domestic violence in a population of 8 million adult women, WAO is meeting a need to not only support these women to get out of their situations, but also spreading advocacy and awareness about the reality of domestic violence through campaigns such as these…

Ads in partnerships with DDB International Malaysia and WAO

On April 17, I was welcomed to Women’s Aid Organization’s main office and women’s refuge shelter in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.  At the office, Vivian, Projects Executive, gave me an introduction to WAO, its programs, and its goals and challenges.

Vivian and I looked through some of the press and advocacy campaigns. WAO partners with other local organizations, larger international organizations like UNHCR, and corporate partners to spread awareness about domestic violence as well as improve support and services for survivors. Vivian said the community wants to be a part of this movement because hey want to make a change.  WAO is promoting the new mentality from a “closed door culture” to one that “everyone can help”.

Next we went to visit the refuge, which is located at an undisclosed unlisted address location in order to protect the women. I found out that often these women’s past abusers come looking for them so this center is equipped with cameras, security gate, and emergency numbers. I asked her how these women escape their situations, and Vivian said they either come up with the idea on their own or it suggested by friends to seek help via WAO.  The women are referred to the shelter when they have nowhere to go – some even have to bring their children to escape the violence.

When we arrived I noticed the security and safety, but inside beyond the gates was a bright home that I could hear children’s laughter. Once inside, I met the staff and counselors that work at the refuge to provide constant access and support for the women.  As I walked around, I saw artwork posted up by the kids, and was introduced to the women residing there. There were women of all different backgrounds, religions, and cultures all under one roof – all supporting each other escape the abuse to start a better empowered life.

The refuge provides many activities like tutoring, English classes, daycare, skills building classes, and yoga. The staff also provides other outings and activities by request of the women.

It was wonderful to experience the work and impact of Women’s Aid Organization in supporting these women, but also to meet the committed and dedicated staff behind the scenes working not only at the shelter but as advocates for human rights, as well as see the strength and courage of the women who escaped violent situations to create a better life for themselves and their children.

WAO is working on a public education campaign which wiill feature men calling out men to stop violence against women. I am very excited to see this launched because stopping domestic violence involves not just public policy and women… but it involves men as well. We are all in it together.

To find out more please go to: http://www.wao.org.my

My Day with Lotus Outreach addressing Cambodia’s Sex Industry and Women’s Rights

On March 14, Alexis and I visited Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education program. Bright and early we met up with Raksmey from Lotus Outreach. First, we attended a sewing training. This training is part of the non-formal education classes providing life skills, basic education, and small business training so that the girls have necessary skills to survive outside of the karaokes, massage parlors, and sex industry. These women are the most vulnerable group because some are illiterate and a large majority never completed higher than an elementary school education.

With Lotus Outreach Sewing Class

With Lotus Outreach Sewing Class

One of the sewing class trainees explained to me that she hopes to open a small business in her hometown someday. Another said she worked in a karaoke bar and found out about the training, so joined to have her own business one day. A third girl said she might not be able to work in a karaoke forever, so she needs more skills to prepare her for another job. I asked her why she worked in a karaoke and she said she could not find other work to support her child. The instructor’s assistant said before she was illiterate, but now she can do calculations, read, and write since she joined the NFE program.

Following the sewing class, we visited a non-formal education class at the housing accommodations of girls that work in a local “karaoke”. These karaokes serve as locations for men to enjoy the company of women with the option to gain more.

The challenge is that the families of these girls demand money and support so the girls not able to make enough money in traditional jobs have to take alternative forms of income generation that is quick and provides large sums – income generating activities such as selling their bodies. They often lack skills to gain more secure and higher wage jobs in places like the garment factories, so Lotus Outreach is providing the training and skills as well as job placement for girls in their NFE programs. Providing a sustainable and feasible alternative to the sex industry – a job that the girls can be proud of. Finally, we ended at another “karaoke” where Lotus Outreach provides Non-Formal Education and vocational training classes in beauty like hair, nails, and makeup for the girls to get out of the sex industry.

The trainer and trainees were busy practicing on each other – creating beautiful nail and hair designs. One of the trainees had barely received any formal education growing up, but now had skills that she could make a living for herself outside of the sex industry.  Soon after, the first customers began to arrive… and we knew it was time to leave. These young women were so inspiring to meet and hear their stories because despite their hardships, they still have hopes and dreams they are working to achieve. These young women live in such harsh conditions, but at the end of day still wake up to attend the basic education classes, to study, and to practice their vocational training to have another life.

with Non-Formal Education Class

with Non-Formal Education Class

After, Alexis and I visited recipients of the Lotus Pedals project. The recipients were 2 young girls who received a bike from the Lotus Pedals program.  Before they had the bikes, these girls would have to walk an hour just to get to school. Now the bikes cut the time in half, and they have more time to study in between school and work. Where do they work? The rubbish heaps nearby to earn extra income for the family. They pick things like plastic bottles and items that can be sold to recycling plants. The average income is $1.25USD per day picking rubbish.

The Louts Pedals project goal is to not only provide bicycles to young girls but to increase awareness about the importance of education for the family as a whole. Lotus Outreach works with families and the schools, before enrolling in the schools Lotus Outreach staff meets with parents to identify needs and challenges for the kids to get to school. Lotus Outreach also helps to decrease the gender gap between girls and boys.

Lotus Pedals recipients with bike

I asked one of the sister recipients what her favorite subject in school was and she said science because she loves the environment. The other said her favorite was social studies and Khmer traditional dancing class.  The father said he hoped for the future of his kids involved getting a good job and to stay in school as long as they could afford it.  I turned to the girls and asked what they wanted to be when they grew up – one said a primary school teacher and the other a doctor.