From her own experience, My Duong is working hard in preventing child sexual abuse in Vietnam. Here is her incredible story.
According to the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs in Vietnam, every eight hours, one child is sexually abused in the country, and the number increases by 20% every year. My Duong is one of many victims of child sexual abuse in Vietnam.
She never surrendered, and today she is a brave young woman standing up and working tirelessly to improve her community, so no other child will experience the same thing.
Moved by her own story, with a strong will to help, My started Be a Brave Vietnamese – a non-governmental organisation bringing knowledge about child sexual abuse to over 100 primary school students in her hometown, Quang Nam province.
My’s work is crucial for a better society.
To support this, we recall that UNICEF reported that in 2018 Vietnam recorded 1,547 crimes of child molestation and in her province alone, there were 25 serious cases of child sexual abuse reported.
Be a Brave Vietnamese works to change this, by envisioning a Vietnam where children are educated about child sexual abuse and confidently speak out their thoughts and feelings.
My speaks exclusively to Youth Time, revealing how she raises awareness in the community and how this helps future generations.
“I was a child sexual abuse victim by the inappropriate behaviours from both acquaintances and strangers that I met in my childhood,” My says, while adding that when she was young, she used to think this was embarrassing and she should remain silent.
However, through time and self-education, she realised it is more than just “an unfortunate personal experience”.
Child molestation is a crime that needs to be condemned and punished, My underlines.
More seriously, victims’ parents rarely want to denounce the abuser to protect their children’s dignity and private life.
“Most heartbreakingly, the victims’ sufferings usually continue for the rest of their lives, both physically and mentally, usually in forms of post-trauma stress disorder, inferiority complex, social isolation, and even suicidal thoughts,” she elaborates.
Alarming as the issue is, however, in Vietnam, there are few effective programs and campaigns against it, especially for children aged 5-13 years old, the target of this crime.
“Besides their lack of physical strength to defend themselves in case of danger, they lack adequate education; therefore, not being fully aware of the situation when the crimes happen. Many of them are also too embarrassed or scared to speak to their families about the issues.”
According to her, the biggest challenge that prevents Vietnamese people to speak up and prevent child sexual abuse is the Vietnamese culture and mindset.
The number of child sexual abuse is increasing every day in Vietnam and while everyone knows about it, they rarely discuss it.
There are some reasons for this.
“First, sex is a very sensitive topic in Vietnam. Parents tend not to talk about it to their children, because it is an embarrassing topic in Vietnamese culture.”
Second, My explains, they [parents] assume child sexual abuse is something happening far away from their children. Subjectively, they think it will never happen to their children.
Third, to Vietnamese people, they do not see inappropriate activities as child sexual abuse, this comes from newspapers just post about child sexual abuse cases that cause damaged consequences.
Children Brave Enough to Speak Up
She shares with us what are the key workshops Be a Brave Vietnamese offers and also why children like being part of them.
In the workshops, students:
- Talk to a speaker about child sexual abuse
- Learn about a strategy that helps them to protect themselves which is “SAY NO – LEAVE – SHARE”
- Play games to remember the lesson longer
- Use a star to write the information of five people who they believe the most to share things when something bad happens to them
- Do the “Correct, Incorrect” Assignment to know which situations are appropriate, which are considered as child sexual abuse cases
- Write the letter to the team if they have anything to share or need support.
The last thing is a ‘Happy Forest’ to write about what they felt and what they learned after the workshop and My is happy that students wrote thank you to her team a lot.
“The reason students enjoyed these workshops so much is because the workshop curriculum is designed specifically for students with the age-appropriate content and funny activities to engage students in the workshop,” My says.
When doing the workshop about child sexual abuse, people usually invite speaker to talk about it and not really have the engage activities for students.
However, at Be A Brave Vietnamese, they have a young, professional psychologist who has been working with children, especially about child sexual abuse, as a content builder and a speaker.
The project can equip children with knowledge and skills to detect, prevent and help them know how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.
“More than that, the most valuable part of doing this project is seeing the children becoming braver to speak up, talk about their true feelings and what they have been through as well.
“The unexpected outcome we didn’t plan is that while we organise the workshops for students, they have had a huge effect on parents.”
The parents read the handbooks prepared for students and now they know that this issue is happening everywhere, to everyone.
Thanks to the support from MCW Global, Young Leaders Access Programme, Be A Brave Vietnamese, and the People Committee and The Women’s Union have been implementing this project and bringing knowledge about child sexual abuse.
My remains thankful for the unconditional support of MCW Global and her stunning mentor, Sharon.
Activism and its Positive Impacts
My stands as an extraordinary example of a youth activist, and in this part of the interview, she speaks about the role of activism in her success.
Recalling that she has been an active member of many community projects and also a founder of some projects since 2017, such as:
The Airport Runway – An education project to connect about 70 graduated high school students who were seeking jobs with four local enterprises (Founder).
Adei House – A tourism project to introduce and maintain Champa culture–one of the most important and unique cultures in Vietnam (Founder).
So throughout the time, she realized the important role of activism.
“Activism is a great opportunity for me to find my strengths and develop new skills. For example: Planning a donation campaign helps me develop the ability to plan my spending. Coaching and mentoring other young people helps me develop my pedagogical, public speaking skills.”
She believes humans and society always have to rely on each other for survival, the emergence of commercialisation has somehow damaged traditional values, the development of a modern society affects community character but right now we can mend that change by activism.
“I think one purpose of activism is to help others and make a positive impact on the lives of human beings.”
After experiencing the activism works, she wanted to confirm that activism brings more opportunities than we ever thought.
“Employers want to hire candidates who have a lot of social experience and good teamwork coordination. They believe that people who have experiences in activism own great job skills.
“With the skills I have been having throughout the time, it helps me to get a wonderful job and adapt with the company jobs faster and better.”
Besides, thanks to her activist spirit, My expanded her networking.
“Doing activism helps bring people from different backgrounds closer together. The results of my activism work and those of the organisations are both inspirational and a good way to develop myself.”
My believes activism is also a great way to get to know people from all walks of life, environment and profession.
A Message to the Youth: Believe in Yourself
My believes the future of the world relies on the young generation.
“We always ask why our country is not as rich as other countries, why we do not have this educational, medical opportunity, etc.
“However, each country, each generation has a unique background, and the young generation plays an important role in the country’s development.”
On this note, she shares a message with all young people.
“You must always believe in yourself that you are contributing to build this world and you will create a better future for the future generation,” she concludes.
She believes making the world a better place and bringing smiles, and peace is not the responsibility of one person or one organisation.
“It is the responsibility of us all, the leaders of the world today and tomorrow.”
Follow Be a Brave Vietnamese on Facebook for more information.
My Duong, in her quest to prevent child sexual abuse in Vietnam, has been working closely with children to support and educate them. Something this next article is also doing.
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