Many students concerned about the opportunity to engage in civil society activities. They thought that, once graduating students wouldn’t have many chances because “out there” people often feel helpless, then changing seems to be a hard work. The speakers appreciated this concern, and believed that young people should assign themselves the mission to “educate” adults. They have to inspire and create space to themselves.
Hanoi, September 21st 2013, iSEE and three groups including TEDx Hoan Kiem, Action for Future and 350.ORG organized a meeting with 300 young people and students centering the topic: We change the world. This was space for the youth to discuss and take their part in civil society organizations’ activities, which aims to resolve many social issues including poverty, inequality, environmental pollution, human rights and anti-corruption.
The participants were introduced about different operating models of Vietnamese civil society organizations. To start with, Ms Nguyen Khanh Thuong from Vietnamese Breast Cancer Network (BCN) gave them a talk which sketched her work in collecting and sharing knowledge and information related to breast cancer, while providing direct and specific supports towards breast cancer patients such as psychological counseling or wig lending program. Notably, Ms Thuong has suffered a level 4 breast cancer which had previously been detected since October 10th 2012. After discovering her disease and doing research, she found out that breast cancer-relevant information was either scarce or inaccurate in Vietnam. On the other hand, 50-70% women were already in to the late period when discovering their disease. Plus the age range affected in Vietnam is pretty young, from 35-50 years old, which was 10 years younger than international’s. Therefore, Thuong’s longing is that Vietnamese women can access to more comprehensive health care information in order to detect it early, and even though her remaining time was unknown, Thuong wishes her each and every last day to be helpful to the society. Thuong’s strongly touching story has inspired many young people, making dozens of them decide to sign for BCN’s volunteers after the end of the meeting. This is a popular civil society model, where people participate to resolve one specific social issue.
Following Ms Thuong, Mr Dang Hoang Giang shared statistic centering transparency and integrity in the youth. According to research, Vietnamese young people have the right thinking about the importance of transparency being integrity as a human’s quality. Example from the research, 95% interviewee considered honesty more important than wealth, and 86% ones thought that the short of integrity was a critical issue to country. However, a large number of young people would “surrender” by accepting bribery, cheating or lying in many situations, to settle their marks or due to “personal and family benefits”. For example, 45% said no to lying unless it would benefit themselves and family, or 50% rejected corruption excluding the situation where the amount is not considerable or to resolve a problem. Discussing about the root cause, Mr Giang thought that Vietnam needs a strong civil society which is able to play a role in public administration and monitor government’s activities. After that, a transparency environment would be established, allowing people to respect integrity value. Mr Giang shown an example from where he worked – CECODES, a study on “provincial administration performance indicator – PAPI” – in order to evaluate and rank the effectiveness of provincial administrations. This is another civil society model which monitors government and public policy.
In the next part, Mr Huynh Minh Thao – ICS director of communication and service – shared the movements of LGBT community in the last 5 years. From individuals hiding in their shells, afraid to face prejudice and discrimination, homosexuals began to build their network, from internet to reality, from small groups to a big LGBT community. The whole connecting progress had been a self-changing period, from fear to confidence, from individual to group. This was how homosexuals created their civil society space, thus advocating equality right for LGBT community. To Thao, no change is easy and painless, but the important thing is that we need to connect and unite for a mutual goal. This is the civil society model of networking and social movement which Thao wanted to share.
After listening to 3 different models of civil society, Mr Duong Trung Quoc affirmed that civil society wasn’t a strange concept in Vietnam. In fact, the village model had been a longtime example of civil society. Throughout history, civil society activities were popular. Mr Quoc also said that an caution of civil society was unnecessary, because of its objective existence; therefore the point concerned should be how to utilize the advantages and power of civil society to develop the country. Psychological apprehension aside, Mr Quoc thought that the absence of legal framework, particularly Assembly law, is a major barrier to the development of civil society in Vietnam.
After listening to the speakers, the young audience carried out an exciting discussion about civil society and other important matters of the country. A high school student shared his story. After reading his post of the school’s negatives on Facebook, his teachers asked him to remove them. However, this student refused to delete that true story and as a consequence, had to face a difficult relationship with the teachers. The speakers truly shown their sympathy with the student’s story and agreed with the right action. To make an improvement and change requires the youth’s courage to voice out the truth. Only then they would be the integrity and the change is born from inside each individual, before coming to people around and finally the whole society.
A young participant concerned about the missing of Protest law, and whether young people should demonstrate under some problems? According to Mr Duong Trung Quoc, this was like two sides of a coin. If it didn’t happen in reality, people would consider the problem unnecessary. But if the protest occurred without a law, it’s would be an out of the law action. In the modern context, the youth need a healthy space to promote their intellect and strength. He noted that, together with Protest law, National Assembly law would be an essential demand.
Many students cared about the opportunity to engage in civil society activities. They thought that, once graduating students wouldn’t have many chances because “out there” people often feel helpless, then changing seems to be a hard work. The speakers appreciated this concern, and believed that young people should assign themselves the mission to “educate” adults. They have to inspire and create space to themselves. A typical example was easily found from LGBT community: they connected, took the action and created space for themselves instead of waiting for somebody to grant an opportunity. This should be a good reference to all young people.
The discussion was lively and emotionally, inspiring the youth. Hundreds of the young people stood up, held hand-in-hand and chanted “We change the world” when every of them understood that social changes are the individuals’ responsibility. To change the world, they have to change themselves first, to stay active and connected, then create an helpful Vietnamese civil society for the development of the country, on behalf of equality and human rights.