Empowering LGBT Youths in Vietnam

Monday 29 June 2015

By David Bloomer, Child Protection Advisor for Asia

On a recent mission to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam, I had an opportunity to speak with Nga L.H. Nguyen from Child Rights Governance’s LGBT (standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or sexually non-conforming) Street Youth Project. Nga discussed her work with the LGBT youth movement in Vietnam, her motivation and inspiration for undertaking the work, and how Save the Children can play a big part in furthering LGBT rights in Vietnam and the region.

What motivated you to join Save the Children and undertake this work?

My grandmother’s sister was a frontline journalist during the Vietnam War. Her daughter, now also a journalist, does a lot of correspondence from warzones in the Middle East. Their writings represent the voice of nameless soldiers and civilians. When I was 12, I decided to follow their lead. I wanted to change the world for the better by being the voice of those typically silenced and unheard, and since then, I have never grown out of it.

Tell us a little bit about the LGBT movement in Vietnam and the work of Save the Children with LGBT street children and youth.

The LGBT movement in Vietnam has been unfolding and evolving rapidly, and it is thrilling to be part of that process. Within the first seven years of the movement, it has achieved the level of visibility, social consciousness, and equality that takes other countries decades to get to.

Our project is very innovative and crucial to the LGBT movement in its intersectional approach, addressing multiple layers of oppression and vulnerability simultaneously. We work with the most deprived and marginalized groups—children themselves, those on the street, and those from low socioeconomic background, who don’t conform to the society’s sexuality norms. We work for groups of young people that are typically, to borrow Arundhati Roy’s words, “deliberately silenced or preferably unheard.

There is a strong civil society component to the project, which was a draw for me, and which will help associate Save the Children much more strongly with the LGBT movement in Vietnam and in the region, and eventually, globally. For Save the Children to truly have sustainable impact on a large scale, we want to be part of the movement beyond the current LGBT street youth project. This project is wholly participatory, and we are planting a lot of great seeds for development.

On June 4th, as part of LGBT month, Nga facilitated a workshop on Preventing and Responding to Bias-Motivated Violence against the LGBTQ+ Community at the American Center in HCMC. Approximately 70 people participated in her interactive talk. This month, Nga is also traveling to Washington, DC, Alabama, Georgia, and New York with the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program to discuss issues related to hate crimes against the LGBT community with governmental agencies and civil society organizations in the U.S. and from all over the world. For more information on Vietnam’s Child Rights Governance programming and LGBT work, you can contact Nga at: NguyenLyHien.Nga@Savethechildren.org.