Poverty and domestic violence often go hand-in-hand in many rural areas of Vietnam, but when staff at Hagar instigated an Economic Empowerment Program in Yen Bai province, even they were surprised by the transformational effect it had on the lives of the women involved.
This is the story of a Hagar Loans & Savings Group
Hagar Vietnam identified a group of Tay women in the province who were vulnerable to extreme domestic violence. These women were invited to attend a newly initiated Loans & Savings Group with the ambitious objective of creating and improving income independence to help transform their lives.
A regular meeting was (and still is) held once a month in the village community centre where Hagar capitalises on the opportunity to create awareness about other important issues such as sexual abuse and human trafficking. Tay women attend with their husbands.
For 26 year old Xuan* the group has been a life-saver. Married to a drug-addict, Xuan’s husband frequently locked her inside their house, turned the music up loud and beat her until she was unconscious. Sadly, none of her neighbours intervened. It was after Xuan started attending the Loans & Savings Group and her husband was given access to workshops, that she saw significant changes in her husband. Xuan’s husband now has a job, is no longer addicted to drugs and has been known to contribute to the household chores.
Not only has the group helped to improve the economic livelihood of the women involved but also from the very first meeting, the women wept openly as they shared the suffering they were enduring at the hands of their husbands. No longer isolated by their personal circumstances, they were empowered by their peers to be individually independent. They started to question their understanding that a man can behave in any way he chooses towards his wife without any consequence or accountability.
Women who wanted to access a loan were required to ensure their husbands attended training about domestic violence legislation. Any resistance by the men has been partly overcome by the financial incentive of greater prosperity for the family.
After one year of the program running, an external evaluation found all members of the group reported drastically reduced incidences of violence at home.
*Hagar pursues the highest degree of care and protection for its clients; names have been changed and images do not necessarily reflect the individual profiled.