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Building National Capacity for Improving Research, Training and Advocacy on Gender and Sexuality Vietnam (1/2008-12/2010)


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Sexuality and sexual health (SSH) are emerging fields in Vietnam.  However, so far very little has been done regarding research, training, advocacy and programming on SSH issues, as SSH subjects are often considered to be culturally and politically inappropriate.  Being both the cause and consequence of this situation, there is a critical lack of Vietnamese professionals with long-term interests and strong capacity to work on SSH issues.  This program is designed specifically to address the critical need of improving human resource, and to promote advocacy on sexual and reproductive rights of the Vietnamese people.  It is a joint initiative between the Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS) and the Consultation for Investment in Health Promotion (CIHP). The program has been funded by the Ford Foundation in the period from January to December 2009 then extended to December 2010.

The general objective of this program is to develop the field of gender, sexuality and sexual health in Vietnam through the creation of a critical mass of professionals with the goal of promoting nationwide improvement in research, training, and advocacy on sexual and reproductive rights in Vietnam. The specific objectives were put as follows:

  1. To build capacity for Vietnamese professionals who have developed strong interests on gender, sexuality and sexual health issues through nation-wide short courses and individual small grant awards (CIHP's responsibility).
  1. To support improvements in teaching capacity on gender, sexuality and sexual health issues at university level (ISDS' responsibility).
  1. To enhance the information service of the Resource Center on Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Health (ISDS' responsibility).
  1. To improve advocacy on sexual and reproductive rights through supporting sensitive mass media activities and through annual symposium on programming, research and advocacy on gender, sexuality and sexual health (ISDS' responsibility).

To achieve the objectives, various activities were designed and implemented within the project cycle

1. Vietnam Nation-Wide Institute on Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Health (VNIGSS)


This training program aimed to provide participants with essential knowledge on sexuality and sexual health, to equip them with understandings of how gender and sexuality evolve in the context of culture, society and history to help participants develop critical thinking on issues concerning sexuality and sexual health.

A team of trainers was set up, including Drs. Le Bach Duong, Khuat Thu Hong, Bui Thu Huong (ISDS), Le Minh Giang, Nguyen Thanh Huong (Hanoi Medical University) and Hoang Tu Anh, Bui Thi Thanh Mai, Vu Song Ha (CIHP). This team works together to develop detail objectives of VNIGSS trainings, criteria for training participants, structure for the whole training as well as each training sessions, reading materials, training methods and plan for field trips.

A two week training course were designed based on a needs assessment of 170 local researchers, programmers, health providers, lecturers working the areas related to gender and sexuality. The designing of training course involved substantial technical assistance from a team of international experts of the field including Prof Peter Aggleton, London University - Chief Editor of the journal Culture, Health and Sexuality, Prof. Michael Tan – University of the Philippines and Prof. Pimpawun Boonmongkol - University of Mahidol.

1st VNIGSS was organized in 11 days from September 22 to October 2, 2008, in Hanoi There were 19 participants in this course. They were researchers, lecturers, social workers, counselors, peers and journalists from universities, research institutes, self-help groups, magazines, GOs and NGOs.

The training course covered a wide range of topics including basic concept of gender and sexuality, and the keys topics such as sexuality: biological and social constructionist perspective, sexuality and socio-economic development, sexuality: State and Policy, “Sex Therapy”: Questioning the role of professionals, Sexual right, MSM, sex work, Sexuality and sexual health of youth, sexual violence. It also included two fieldtrips to help participants reflecting and internalizing what they discussed in the class.  At two last days of the course, participants worked on their proposals.

The training provided a reading material package including highly recommended papers on the theories from international professors, research papers on gender, sexuality in Vietnam, some laws and policies.

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Pictures of the 2nd VNIGSS in HoChiMinh City, May 2009

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Pictures of 1st VNIGSS in Hanoi, September 2008

The 2nd VNIGSS was organized in 11 days from May 19 to May 29, 2009, in Ho Chi Minh City. There were 21 participants in this course, including researchers, lecturers, social officers, counselors and journalists coming from research institutions, government organizations and civil societies.

Both training courses were evaluated successful because it provided a dynamic forum for participants and facilitators to share and discuss various issues of SSH. Beside informative lectures and reading package with useful references, the training course applied active training methods, such as brainstorming, group discussion, group exercise, media analysis, video clip analysis, film discussion, games, roles play.  Participants actively participated in all training activities and openly shared their point of view and experience. Reflection session at the end of both trainings and training evaluation showed that participants were very satisfied with the training course. They reported that the training met their objectives and expectations with good contents, effective training methods, and good logistic preparation.

At the end of the 1st training, one participant who worked as journalist for a famous magazine shared: “I have been writing in this field for many years but I have never been seen sexuality from the political eyes. So when I learn about state and sexuality, I feel very interesting.” Other participant of the 2nd training who works as a counselor said “Being a social worker, I have to communicate about HIV/AIDS/STIs prevention. Thus, naturally, when talking and thinking about sexuality, I often think to safer sex, risk of those diseases. Through this training course, I understood more about positive meanings and values of sexuality. I and my colleagues unintentionally neglected sexual pleasure and sexual rights of our clients as we work”. A young researcher stated: "The training course ended but I and other participants believe that the seeds which trainers sowed for us will spout and will become many plants and have flowers and fruits. These fruits will have other seeds and develop to other plants and fruits".

Small grant activity

Small grant activity is called “Tiep suc” (Relay) program. After 1st VNIGSS, calling for proposals were announced on October. Similar to VNIGSS, announcement on Tiepsuc was posted on website of CIHP and other popular list-serve. The brochure and poster of Tiep suc were also distributed widely.

There were total of 26 proposals sent to the program, in which 7 proposals of participants of 1st VNIGSS. By mid of December, 2008, six proposals were selected for the second round of consulting with reviewers and revising proposal before officially funded. Among the six selected proposals.

After 2nd VNIGSS, second round of "Tiep suc" (Relay) program was announced. There were 23 proposals submitted for small grant program in the second round by August, 2009. After several rounds of review and consultation, five proposals, including three research and two interventions were awarded.

It is expected that the results of all grants will be presented in the 1st national symposium on gender and sexuality in October 2010.

3. Hosting the 7th IASSCS "Contested Innocence – Sexual Agency in Public and Private Space"


In collaboration with the Consultation of Investment in Health Promotion (CIHP) and with sponsorship by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Association (VUSTA), Institute for Social Development Studies with support of IASSCS Board host the VII Biennial Conference titled "Contested Innocence – Sexuality in Public and Private Space" in Hanoi from April 15 to April 18, 2009. The conference welcomed a worldwide audience of over 432 participants from 46 countries. The conference provided an interesting and diverse space for academic and activist exchange concerning the conference theme. (See more on 2009 IASSCS Ha noi conference in
Following the Conference was a post-conference training for selected young researchers in different countries on various issues of sexuality and research methods

4. Training on sexuality, sexual health and sexual rights at the Academy of Journalism and Communication

Over the past three years, ISDS has supported the Academy of Journalism and Communication (AJC) in a unique effort to integrate SSH training into formal teaching at three departments: sociology; radio broadcasting and television; and newspaper journalism.  The selection of AJC for this capacity building efforts was based on the Academy’s critical role in both academic and practical training for future professionals in mass media and propaganda/communication workers.

Consultation with faculties at the AJC revealed that the Academy needs further capacity building built upon what has been achieved.  Specifically, ISDS and AJC agreed that similar activities undertaken during the past two years should be continued and further enhanced.  AJC requested that there should be a ToT for new faculty members and refresher training for those who had been trained before.  Thus, in this project, two major types of activities were carried out: (1) a ToT and a refresher training at the Academy and support for faculty members to revise their curriculums; (2) Supporting activities for faculties and students: Student forums and gala to discuss their concerns around gender and sexuality and promote sexual rights, research and media products (newspaper and on-line articles; TV and radio programs).

Achievements made were:

  • Integrated teaching on SSH for 10,342 students in 220 classes
  • 73 SSH curricula
  • 5 workshops on SSH training
  • 26 research reports
  • 1 on-line series with 13 episodes
  • 12 articles on newspapers/magazines
  • 5 radio broadcast (internal to AJC)
  • 9 guest lecturing

5. Continuing operation of the Resource Center on Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Health

Established since 2002, the Center has been in constant operation, attracting academics, students, programmers and NGO staff to use the resources. Presently the Center has a collection of over 5,000 books and documents, mostly on SSH topics. In addition, information service has been provided through an online library. Within the project cycle, the following activities were undertaken:

  • Translation of selected materials into Vietnamese to increase accessibility of Vietnamese readers.  The Vietnamese versions of these materials were also used for VNIGSS and training courses delivered at the AJC.
  • Continue collecting books, articles and relevant material on gender, sexuality and sexual health including HIV/AIDS to improve the Center's service to its readers.
  • Organizing in-house seminars on various topics of sexuality and gender such as pleasure, sexual violence, and homosexuality.

6. Advocacy on gender, sexuality and sexual health

ISDS has cooperated with the Vietnam Television (VTV) and O2 TV as well as various newspapers including People, Laborer and other online newspapers to advocate for gender equality, sexual well-beings and rights.  ISDS has built good working relationship with those media over years. Within the project cycle several TV programs were produced and aired on national television and O2 TV. Many newspapers articles were published in printed and online media.

7. National Symposium on Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Health

A two-day Nation Symposium on Gender, Sexuality and Sexual Health will be organized in October 2010.  The Symposium will be a good opportunity for professionals working on these issues in/on Vietnam to share their works.  It will also be a showcase for projects accomplished with support from Small Grant Awards.  It is expected that about 100 participants from all over the country will attend the Symposium. The Symposium would not only be an event for sharing knowledge and experiences, but also for advocacy.  In addition to participants with professional interests (i.e. researchers, program managers), there will be policy makers, media journalists and donors participating the Symposium.  The success of the first symposium will generate momentum for other possible symposia to be held once in every two years.

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