Over two days from November 3-4th, CIRUM partnered with CARE International in Vietnam to deliver a workshop to empower women to build sustainable livelihoods within their communities. The workshop was an immense success, with participants eagerly engaging in action plans for their proposed economic activities, and included an enthusiastic launch of the Gender Ambassador Network.
The workshop was held in Tay Ho, Hanoi and included 40 participants from 5 provinces; Lao Cai, Lang Son, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, and Quang Binh. Both men and women were invited to attend, as the supports of partners and men within the community is essential to the success of these programs. A total of 24 women and 16 men attended.
Participants creating their livelihood development plans-Photo:CIRUM
The primary focus of activities was to empower women to take on a leadership role in a livelihood development activity. However, most participants were unfamiliar with basic concepts around gender and women’s rights, and therefore could not understand the need for women’s leadership fully within the patriarchal structure of their communities. The concept of male rule within and without the home, of ‘women’s work’ and ‘men’s work’ etc are so ingrained in their lives and traditions that the workshop could not proceed straight to livelihood development. First, CIRUM staff, including Director Hoa Tran Thi and Gender Advisor Nina Calleja, led activities and discussions that helped introduce new concepts of gender equality and empowerment. We discussed the idea that women do not need to stay and home and take on total responsibility for housework or child care, and are fully capable of taking on new roles within the community, while men are equally capable of sharing the load of work at home. The discussion included input from both male and female participants, who all agreed that the roles of women and men should be made more equal in their communities, and committed to returning home to share these ideas with others.
After the discussion on gender, the workshop activities moved towards practical ideas for livelihood development. These activities were to be sustainable, rooted in local knowledge of nature of forest land, and led by women. Participants came prepared for this activity, and had a wide range of ideas based in agriculture from forest development, natural forest tea growing, local fruit tree planting, and creating a local nursery with local forest species whose prices varied depending on the economic status of the buyer (ie. poor families could purchase plants and seeds at a lower cost).
The next activity was key to the ongoing success of the workshop- the action plans. Participants were grouped by their community areas and, with the facilitation of CIRUM staff, created detailed plans for the development of their specific project. Women were encouraged throughout the process to not only nominate women leaders for their program, but to have equal or greater input in the process as their male counterparts. The plans were well done by all participants, who were very eager to create a tangible outline for their ideas to improve their community. In the coming months, CIRUM will designate the most promising plans for funding and ongoing support.
The first members of CIRUM’s Gender Ambassador Network-Photo:CIRUM
On the second day of the workshop, the plans were presented and discussed by all groups and feedback was given by facilitators and other community members. The discussions on gender roles and gender equality was then reviewed, before the launch of CIRUM’s Gender Ambassador Network (GAN). Participants volunteered to be a part of the GAN in order to further their knowledge of gender equality and that of their community, while taking an active role in advocating for gender where they see discrimination, and participating in future gender activities and events. It is not always easy to raise issues around gender, and it is a particularly difficult task within ethnic minority communities where discrimination against women is often normalised. This is why CIRUM will continue to support and advise our GAN members, and hold gender training workshops throughout communities to continue to raise awareness of this important issue. A total of 18 participants volunteered to be Ambassadors for gender equality, from all 5 provinces, and signed a pledge to support women, continue learning about equality, and raise their voices for women’s rights. Participants were given a Certificate of Completion at the end of the workshop.
Participants receiving their Certificate of Completion-Photo: CIRUM
CIRUM would like to thank CARE for their support, and all participants for engaging to thoughtfully and enthusiastically in the events. We look forward to the work ahead!