Van Anh, fighting for gender equality

Nguyen Thi Van Anh, Director of the Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender - Family - Women and Adolescents (CSAGA) is a social activist who has made great efforts in protecting disadvantaged people, children and women vulnerable to domestic violence and social discrimination.

After graduating from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under Vietnam National University Hanoi, with a master’s degree in Literature, in 1992, Van Anh worked as a reporter at the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) Radio Station.

In 2017, Nguyen Thi Van Anh was selected by Forbes Magazine as one of Vietnam’s 50 most influential women.

Van Anh (second right) at a talk show entitled “Ending Violence, Nurturing Love”. Photo: Files

At a workshop on prevention of violence against children. Photo: Files.

Van Anh (first right) at the awards ceremony and final workshop
on Partnership for Gender Equality in Journalism. Photo: Files

In her ten years working in journalism, Van Anh met numerous women in difficult circumstances. Van Anh has never forgotten the words of a sex worker she met: “At that difficult time, if someone had held my hands and gave me an advice, I would never have done this job.”

Van Anh realized that everyone had their own fear. “People often become so weak when they suffer a great misfortune. Many cannot overcome their crisis and they lose their direction in life,” she said.

In the 1990s, there was no organization that supported people in crisis except a column in Phu nu Vietnam (Vietnam Women) newspaper called “Letters to Sister Thanh Tam”. The staff of this column was always overloaded with work so it took a long time for a person to receive a reply, which might have been too late to help them, Van Anh recalled.

That was the reason Van Anh set up Linh Tam Counselling Center in 1997, which operated through the counselling line of the 1008 operator and was considered the first psychological counselling line in northern Vietnam.

In the early days of operation of the center, young Van Anh, who still had limited knowledge and experience in counselling, always felt panic when there was an incoming call, which could be a confession or a terrible secret.

“Urged by my heart, I went on the journey to help disadvantaged people without much experience, but my sincerity and sympathy,” she recalled.

Van Anh’s work was supported by many people who shared the same view on social problems like her and joined her to establish CSAGA in 2001.

CSAGA is a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to the implementation of the rights of women and children who are affected by violence and discrimination in Vietnam.

Van Anh at a talk on women’s aspirations for business. Photo: Files

Van Anh (third right) at a training class for CSAGA staff members. Photo: Files

At a training class for women suffering from domestic violence. Photo: Files

Van Anh in a meeting with CSAGA partners. Photo: Files

At an interview with the press during a workshop on prevention and control of child sexual abuse in 2017. Photo: Files

Its activities focus on gender and gender equality, gender-based violence prevention, human trafficking, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) rights and corporal and psychological punishment against children prevention.

In 2017, Nguyen Thi Van Anh was selected by Forbes Magazine as one of Vietnam’s 50 most influential women.
– In 2008, Van Anh was honored as one of 21 outstanding leaders of the 21st century by Women’s eNews of the US.

The center is one of the co-founders and coordinators of the Domestic Violence Prevention Network in Vietnam (DOVIPNET). It also has a long history of successful cooperation with UN agencies and international NGOs and foundations.

CSAGA staff members have received support from foreign specialists through counselling training courses.
CSAGA chooses to help disadvantaged people in an effective and sustainable manner by providing intensive support programs for specific target groups.

Van Anh operates CSAGA with the guiding principle that: “Goodness is not for destroying evil, but for transforming evil.”
Van Anh said “My view is to even love guilty people”, which has become the philosophy she and her associates follow on their journey to help disadvantage people.

Story: Thao Vy – Photos: Cong Dat & Files