Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Nhung is Senior Officer of Family and Social Affairs Division, Vietnam Women’s Union.
In her 17 years of experience working for VWU, she has been engaged in cooperative activities between VWU and Thrive Networks/East Meets West Foundation for over 10 years. Cooperation between VWU and EMW started through the pilot project in the Mekong delta provinces of An Giang, Vinh Long and Ben Tre in 2010, which aimed to improve women’s access to water and sanitation.
Built on the success of the pilot, Community Hygiene Output-Based Aid project (CHOBA 1) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was officially launched in 2012 with the target of 125,000 poor and near poor households gaining access to hygienic toilets. Over the course of 5 years (2012-2016), the EMWF and VWU support through CHOBA 1 not only enabled the target households but also engaged non-poor households in 10 provinces across Vietnam to build hygienic toilets. This has been followed by CHOBA 2 and Women Led Output-Based Aid (WOBA). According to Nhung, she feels lucky to have been able to participate in and contribute to these projects.
OBA as an innovative approach has proved effective in mobilizing and leveraging resources from stakeholders. However, it was not well understood and received when first introduced to project partners, particularly sub-national and grassroot levels of government because of its complexity and strict requirements. Therefore, it took time and efforts to convince project stakeholders and WU and EMW partners of its comparative advantages and potential benefits. However, the adoption of OBA and other innovative initiatives has encouraged VWU in general and Nhung in particular to stay proactive and dynamic in terms of mobilizing and coordinating available resources as well as involvement of various stakeholders.
As a woman working in the field of gender equality, Nhung realizes that in order to advance women’s development, it is important to advocate for and promote women’s rights. Thanks to her experience and involvement in joint efforts between VWU and EMWF, she understands that improving women’s access to water and sanitation is one of the most effective ways to achieve gender equality. Reduced household workload, most of which involves water and sanitation related tasks, means increased opportunities for women to thrive in their personal, professional as well as social life.
To this end, VWU has actively participated in national policy advocacy for the realization of the goal “Leave No One Behind”. Through close cooperation and collaboration with national and international partners and organizations like EMWF, VWU has built up a strong evidence base of innovative approaches which have been fed into the national regulatory framework, notably water and sanitation policies for the disadvantaged communities. VWU has also led important programs and projects including promoting ethnic women’ access to water and sanitation.