Making Hanoi a LGBTQI friendly city – a clear vision for Tho, member of Hanoi Queer and the group leader of the youth-led data collection group focusing on the LGBTQI community. Following his aspiration, he joined UNESCO’s youth-led research initiative to collect strong evidence for a more inclusive National Youth Law.
With the establishment of the Youth Advisory Group, UNESCO and its partners opened a unique opportunity for a diverse set of young change-makers to meaningfully engage with multi-stakeholders in the Youth Law revision process. However, Tho reckoned, strong policy advocacy requires more than compelling testimonies – clear evidence from the communities were needed. Along with his young fellows, Tho joined UNESCO’s Youth as Researcher initiative which in partnership with the UNESCO Chair at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and Pennsylvania State University provided a series of capacity building training to prepare the groups for their hands-on research experience. Whereas the other groups focused on Ethnic Minorities, Youth with disabilities, Students or Sex Workers, Tho’s group was determined to collect needed data on young people’s knowledge of the LGBTQI community.
Tho has been through a mazy journey. While being born in Lao Cai, he challenged himself and studied Chinese traditional medicine in Tianjin. However, once he came back to Viet Nam, 27-year-old Tho knew this is not what he truly wanted to pursue. Instead, he joined the Viet Nam Association for Education for All as the Admin and Communication Officer. He wondered, “Advocacy for LGBTQI rights have been going on for about 10 years”, but the community, “has not yet gained access to rights they rightfully are entitled to”. The Youth as Researcher initiative appeared to be a good start to “recognize and listen to the voices of young people to ensure fairness and comprehensiveness for youth sub-groups in legal documents”. Driven by his motivation to raise his own awareness and to identify effective ways to help the LGBTQI community to be heard and especially be recognized in Vietnamese law, Tho decided to take further actions.
Whereas many large and small scale studies have been carried out in the last 10 years, they did not measure people’s knowledge and social awareness on the LGBTQI community. Ultimately, his team believes this information is the very foundation based on which strong interventions can be developed to change biases and create better LGBTQI awareness. Going into the research, his team encountered a series of challenges, with little research experience in designing online surveys, they had a hard time reaching out to youth that has a fewer connection with the LGBTQI community. After fully exploring every accessible channel for spreading the survey via social media, fan-, university and high school pages in Ha Noi, Buon Ma Thuot and Ho Chi Minh City, the group reached more than 800 participants with nearly 500 youth who entirely completed the questionnaire in three weeks.
As the research group expected, many young participants who are not in regular contact with the LGBTQi community, could not fully comprehend concepts such as sexual orientation or gender identity, resulting in misperception and inaccurate knowledge on LGBTQi altogether. Moving forward, backed with the study results, Tho and his group members will strengthen their advocacy to mobilize for LGBTQI recognition in the Youth Law in the short term and for future laws including Marriage and Family Law, Transgender Law, Education Law etc. in the long term.
Having joined a series of different capacity building pieces of training along the Youth Law revision process, Tho and his group members gradually gained more self-confidence and are more than ever ready to speak up and share their needs and aspirations with policymakers and representatives of relevant ministries. Tho highlights: “I think that the greatest success of the training is to improve the capacity of young people, giving them the opportunity to voice up and help them implement their ideas.”
With a variety of challenges ahead of youth, Tho is optimistic and believes Vietnamese youth will make great strides in shaping their future but for this to happen he stresses: “you have to believe in yourself and do not let the surrounding comments affect you”.
For general inquiries:
Hai Ha Vu Thi, Consultant on Youth Programming, email@example.com