Yen Bai province, December 2012 – Sung Thi My is 18 years old. She lives in the mountainous village of Dau Cau, which is located in the district of Tram Tau in northern Yen Bai province. My is married and has an 18-month daughter. She only speaks her mother tongue, Mong, and not any Vietnamese. My never went to school and does not know the way to the local healthcare center. She gave birth to her child at home with the help of her husband. Like most of the Mong women she knows, My resumed her farm work one month after delivery and she now carries her child on her back when she goes to work. My plans to have two more children and hopes she will be able to stay home longer after their delivery. She hopes that, unlike herself, all her children will have the opportunity to go to school.
Understanding the life of people living in remote areas like Yen Bai and capturing their views and needs was the purpose of a joint UN mission to the province in mid December. A group of UN staff and community support experts visited various villages in Xa Ho and Hat Luu communes and spoke with My and many others about their aspirations and wishes for the future.
Giang Thi Bla is an 11-year-old girl attending the Xa Ho boarding school. During the week, Bla and her siblings stay in a bunk bed at the end of Bla’s classroom in the boarding school. Outside of school hours, the Mong girl cooks for her sister (8 years) and two brothers (9 and 4 years). The children usually eat rice with salted bamboo. Sometimes their mother, on her way to her terraced field, drops in to bring them some vegetables. Bla hopes that in the future she might be able to have fish more often for dinner. Every other week, Bla takes her sister and brothers home to spend the weekend with their parents. It takes them one and a half hours to walk home. Bla says that she doesn’t want to drop out of school and she doesn’t want to get married early.
Lo Van Huong is 37 years old. He lives in Hat Luu commune. The Thai ethnic man is married and has two children. His family is ranked among the 143 poorest households in the commune. Huong only knows how to make a living from farming, but his plot of land is too small to grow much. He would like to learn from others how to earn additional income. Huong says that if he had the money, he would focus on breeding livestock for a living.
The UN mission to Yen Bai was part of series of consultations being conducted by the UN in Viet Nam to ask people about the world they want and what they think a new development framework should look like in 2015 and beyond, when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. Ethnic minorities are one of the eight target groups being consulted in Viet Nam, with a specific focus on poor and marginalized people like My, Bla and Huong. Other groups that will be consulted include the urban and rural poor, people with disabilities, people living with HIV, young people, the elderly and the private sector.
“We consulted with different groups of people, including children, poor men, poor women, the elderly and local government officials,” explains Ms Vo Hoang Nga from UNDP, who coordinated the mission. “In order to engage the different groups and overcome communication barriers we used many different participatory tools. For example, we asked children to paint “My future dream” and local government officials to map the village. We asked poor women to draw a map of where they go during the day and to list what they do during the day. We asked the elderly about “My body”, trying to understand their health status and needs. Many Mong people speak only their mother tongue so we also needed interpretation help.”
“We also learnt about the healthcare situation in the district and some of the existing difficulties and aspirations of both the service providers and users,” says Ms Le Thi Thanh Huyen from UNFPA. “We hope to work together with the Government at different levels to have suitable policies in place and a health service system that take into account cultural factors. This will help to provide effective services for people living in remote mountainous areas with difficult traveling conditions, as well as many different customs and habits.”
“Through the missions we also aimed to get comprehensive and in-depth information on educational, cultural, communication and information aspects, thereby ensuring effective policy recommendations for ethnic minorities, especially the Mong people,” concludes Ms Hoang Minh Nguyet from UNESCO.
The opinions and views gathered through all the national consultations will be consolidated and included in a final report, which will reflect on the opportunities and challenges for Viet Nam with a post 2015 framework. The Viet Nam report will be discussed at a national workshop before it is shared with the UN Secretary-General’s advisory High-level Panel on Post 2015 in March 2013.
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