Helping vulnerable women in Viet Nam reclaim their resilience in the wake of COVID-19

Author: Thao Hoang

At least 1,443 vulnerable women affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Tien Giang Province, southern Viet Nam, have received cash grants of VND 5.5 million (USD 200) each, along with new skills training from UN Women to rebuild their livelihoods.

Nguyen Phuong used the cash to expand her small farm by buying two pigs. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

When all her goats died and Nguyen Phuong lost her job at the fish factory during the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her family of four knew they were facing tough times.

“My family’s income depended on my husband’s job as a coconut picker and my work as a cat-fish semi-process slicer. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we could earn up to VND 5 million (nearly USD 200) per month. The pandemic disrupted [everything, including] my plan to fix the leaky roof of our house,” said Nguyen Phuong, 45, in the Song Thuan commune.

“The pandemic is over now, but it still impacts our lives severely. The fish factory has fewer orders, and they never call me back to work. We had borrowed VND 20 million (around USD 800) to buy the goats [that died], and the debt will be due soon. I could not sleep well for many nights.”

Fortunately, Phuong’s headache has been partly solved. In November 2023, Phuong’s family, together with vulnerable women in 11 districts of Tien Giang Province, received a cash grant of VND 5.5 million (around USD 200) from UN Women through the Tien Giang Women’s Union, allowing them to rebuild their livelihoods.

Nguyen Phuong (left) at her house, receiving a visit from UN Women, as well as Cherie Russell (centre) and Than Thien Huong (right) from the Australian Embassy, in November 2023. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

Phuong invested her grant wisely, using it to restart her small farm by buying two pigs and following training from the Women’s Union on proper care and management. The newfound knowledge and financial support has brought her hope. Phuong anticipates earning up to VND 10 million (about USD 400) by selling the pigs after Tet (the Lunar New Year).

“I will use the money earned from selling the pigs to fix my house’s leaky roof and buy more piglets so that my family will not have to worry about our meals in the coming days.”

Another cash grant recipient was Le Kim Tien, 29, a mother with disabilities who has a 4-year-old son in Binh Duc commune, Tien Giang Province. She lost all her savings as well as income from her small grocery shop due to COVID-19 but has now regained her resilience.

Le Kim Tien (right) has doubled her income by applying the new skills acquired through training provided by UN Women. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang.

“I lost all my goods, which cost VND 8 million (USD 320) because the majority of the instant noodles, milk and cookies expired due to the COVID-19 lockdown. With my disability, I can’t find a job in my commune and have no land for agricultural work,” she says. “In October 2023, I obtained funds from UN Women to expand my small shop. I diversified my goods and also acquired new skills for online sales and improved business management. These skills have enhanced my [online marketing] channels and enabled me to attract more customers [beyond just my neighbours], doubling my income.”

From October to December 2023, all the cash grant recipients in Tien Giang, including Tien and Phuong, underwent diverse skills training, covering livestock rearing, crop cultivation, economic management and business start-up. The trainings also covered topics such as how to prevent gender-based violence.

Nguyen Thi Kim Phuong, Chair of the Tien Giang Women’s Union, stresses the significance of the financial support provided: “It is an essential lifeline to vulnerable women, helping them rebuild their livelihoods during challenging economic and climate change circumstances.”

UN Women’s “Emergency Response and Recovery Support for Women at Risk of Violence Most Affected by COVID-19” project, funded by the Government of Australia, enabled this transformation. The grants, directly distributed to a total of 3,388 women in both Tien Giang Province and Ho Chi Minh City by their respective provincial Women’s Unions, prioritized the most vulnerable, including women-headed households, pregnant women, women with children under the age of 2, individuals with disabilities, migrant workers, women with HIV, survivors of violence, and women over the age of 60 who have been impacted by COVID-19.