Hanoi, June 20, 2021, Management and Sustainable Development Institute (MSD) conducted an online talk show on the theme “Giving a new vitality to the city by stopping harassment”. The event is part of the project “Safer cities for girls in Hanoi” sponsored by Plan International Vietnam and in response to Action Month for Children 2021.
In recent years, thanks to the efforts of state agencies, CSOs, and the community, the problem of sexual harassment of children – especially against girls and women have changed in a positive manner. However, this is still a common problem that has not been eliminated. In particular, many young people are still not fully aware of sexual harassment, still indifferent and consider sexual harassment as normal because of the concept “Flowers are for people to pick – Girls are for people to tease.” Therefore, an online talk show with the theme “Giving a new vitality to the city by stopping harassment” was conducted to exchange and share real stories, programs, and activities of all stakeholders to put an end to all forms of harassment of children in general and girls in particular in public places. The program was broadcast live at 15:00 on June 20, 2021, onfFanpage MSD Vietnam, Plan International Vietnam, and Spreading Love.
The talk was attended by Ms. Tran Thi Bich Loan – Deputy Director of the Department of Gender Equality, Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs; Mr. Le Xuan Dong – Gender Expert, International Hagar Organization in Vietnam; Actor Tran Nghia – a companion of the Safer cities for girls in Hanoi project and coordinated by Ms. Tran Van Anh – Program Director of MSD.
Speakers at the talk show
Praise and harassment – where are the boundaries?
In part 1 of the talk show, the speakers discussed how to understand the boundary between praising and harassing girls with words and gestures.
Actor Tran Nghia shared his experience when he asked his fans a question on Facebook: How do you feel when your girlfriend, your sister, or yourself are teased with rude words such as “delicious” to describe the physical appearance of women and girls? In response to this question, there were more than 100 comments with many opposing views. Besides the comments against these behaviors: like “Using the word “delicious” to comment on a female friend is very rude”; “I hope you guys don’t use the word delicious when talking about people, especially girls”; “Girls are for love, respect, not food”; “When complimenting others, there are many words to praise such as beautiful, good, gentle. Why not choose these words but the word delicious”, there are also a few opposing opinions that “It’s normal”; “Girls or sisters still like it when they are complimented”, “I think it’s a compliment”, “What era is it, stop taking it too seriously”, …
Actor Tran Nghia emphasized: “Nghia is very happy because there are many views on this issue because the problem must be raised, analyzed, and then we can face and solve it. In reality, many people know about this problem, but there are also many concerns and questions, and they don’t know who to ask or share with. Nghia is very happy when he opens a debate about this issue on his fan page, and he is happy that most people disagree with such harassing “praises”.
Ms. Van Anh, MSD Program Director, affirmed: “Many people still think that harassing and abusing girls and women is physical touching without permission. This is true but not enough. Sexual words or non-verbal actions and gestures such as staring at the other person’s genitals or private parts, or in digital spaces such as sending, sharing, distributing sensitive images, and teasing comments, etc. that make women feel uncomfortable or sad are also acts of harassment.”
However, the line between teasing and harassment is sometimes quite thin and difficult to distinguish for most people in the community. From an expert’s perspective, Mr. Le Xuan Dong said: “The root cause, the factor that aggravates the situation of sexual harassment and the misunderstanding between harassment and teasing mainly comes from concept, lifestyle and our culture. When we consider male teasing as normal and tend to blame women, the harassment will continue. This affects the psychology of the victim – making the victim not dare to speak up – because she is scared that if she speaks up, it is unlikely that anyone will listen to her, and people may laugh at her.”
Ms. Tran Bich Loan shared: “The continuation and spread of harassment of girls and women in public places will cause consequences for victims in particular and society in general. There are children whose physical and mental development are affected. Even adults tend to be less outgoing and afraid to participate in common activities, which hinder the exchange and expand knowledge and relationships. There are women who are obsessed and have distorted thoughts – the assumption that “all men are like that way” and as a result, their happiness is affected. Parents whose children are victims affect their entire lives. And if there are no people to denounce and protest, this problem will never end.”
Speak up against harassment – easy or difficult?
In the second part of the discussion, the speakers and the audience focused on sharing solutions to prevent harassment to end all forms of sexual harassment against children, especially girls, in public places. Many comments from the audience said that this seems easy to say but very difficult because the ingrained prejudice with the outdated view is the cause of increasing harassment. Therefore, it takes a lot of total effort to change the community’s perception, opinion, and behavior.
Ms. Tran Bich Loan shared about the efforts of authorities in preventing harassment of girls and women: “Since 2016, we have annually launched Action Month (November 15 – December 15) with the participation of ministries, agencies, CSOs with the participation rate increasing each year. Besides, the authorities are also making efforts to improve infrastructure in a more friendly and safer way for people and a hotline to support the community. In addition, we hope that gradually we will have a closer network, better technical facilities, and human resources to help and support victims; relatives and the community will trust facilities/organizations so that they can come to share, speak up, and spread the message of preventing sexual abuse better. Apparently, community awareness and community engagement have great power in addition to perfecting and enhancing the law enforcement process for a more sustainable, pervasive outcome.”
Regarding how to prevent harassment, Mr. Le Xuan Dong offered a solution “Educating children in skills to prevent harassment such as detecting risks, saying no, retelling, etc. is urgent work and it needs the participation of both families and educational institutions. In addition, for the victim to dare to speak up, it is necessary to pay attention to the confidentiality of the victim’s information, especially in serious cases, because this will have a long-term impact on the victim’s life in the future.
Actor Tran Nghia, a pioneer accompanying the “Safer cities for girls in Hanoi” along with MSD and Plan International shared his perspective on changing attitudes among young people: “Nghia thinks that it is necessary to build images of civilized, polite cities for young people. Nghia loves the idea of the project “Safer cities for girls in Hanoi” to build a standard youth model – saying no to harassment and being ready to speak up and protect girls when harassed. We should put in such gentle, humanistic and meaningful concepts and standards so that young people like Nghia have orientation and spread good values. I hope that I can use my influence to contribute to spreading positive messages, at least to those who love Nghia.”
The discussion was lively with hundreds of comments and questions related to changing views, behaviors, policy, and practical solutions to end sexual harassment against both boys and girls, especially in public spaces.
Closing the program, Ms. Tran Van Anh gave the message “Young people and teenagers are the owners of the country, not in the future, but in the present. Let’s all speak up, together with the community to create a safe city for all.”
Watch the show here:
About Management and Sustainable Development Institute (MSD)
As a Vietnamese non-government organization, MSD acts to enable the environment for the development of the civil society sector and to promote the rights of marginalized groups, especially children, youth, women, and people with disabilities. MSD now is recognized as a leading organization in coordinating, supporting, and providing capacity-building, coaching, and consultancy services for CSOs in Vietnam. It is also a professional organization effectively responding to the needs and protecting the rights of disadvantaged communities, including advancing gender equality, through implementing projects, providing services to children, youth, women, street and migrant groups, and people with disabilities (PWD) in Vietnam and promoting gender equality.
About Plan International
Plan International’s earliest presence in Vietnam dates to 1954. At that time, Plan supported thousands of families in the south of the country through sponsorship programmes. Plan became established in the northern and central regions of Vietnam in 1993 and focus on the areas where the most marginalized and poorest ethnic groups are living. By 2021 we aim to improve the lives of 2 million girls from 1,875 ethnic communities in Vietnam so they can learn, lead, decide, and thrive.
Plan’s key areas of work include (1) Quality and inclusive education (2) Nutrition and health services (3) Building resilience to the impacts of natural disasters and climate change (4) Creating safe cities with access to good jobs (5) Preventing all forms of violence and harmful practices.
(Ms) Chu Thu Ha – Event and Communication Manager
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