The year was 2007 and in Quỳnh Lưu (a small village in the Nghệ An Province on the North Central coast of Vietnam) a young unmarried woman found herself unexpectedly pregnant and subsequently give birth to a beautiful daughter.

As a result of this (an event she certainly wouldn’t have changed) the young lady (and her baby) found themselves in the all-too-common situation of being an unsupported (and un-respected) single mother & child in Vietnam. It was at this time where she began personally encountering the numerous challenges which many single mothers faced back then and still do today.

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What this situation had presented to the young single mother was that she simply had 1 of 2 choices to make: Either accept the fact that her life from now on would be a life of solitude, a life full of discrimination and a life where her voice (and the voices of others just like her) were never heard or decide that this was unacceptable and it was time someone tried to do something about it.

Thankfully for her, her daughter and countless single mothers since, she chose the latter.

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So as a 26yr old, single mother of one, Ms.Tang Duyen Hong (Founder and still very active CEO of Coins for Change) began asking the questions which those before her were either often too confused or simply too scared to ask.

In those early years her only cost-effective portal for doing this was a simple, self-published and self-edited blog. Little did Hong know the time, but this “call out” to those in a similar situation to herself would end up becoming the largest online community of single mothers in Vietnam, with confirmed subscriber levels passing the 80,000. This “blog” is still very much active today and can be found at www.medonthan.net; www.faceook.com/medonthan (The title “Mẹ đơn thân’ is Vietnamese for “single mum”)

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In fact, such was the rate of exposure of the incredible work which Hong was carrying out, that in 2011 she was approached by a film crew from Germany who wanted to help “tell her story” and this was produced in a documentary called By Choice or Chance. Since its production the film has been screened in 37 countries and has been donated the film to Vietnam Women’s Union and Museum, with the underlying hope that it would have been widely published in Vietnam to further encourage Vietnamese women to stand up for their right of living the life of their choosing . Unfortunately representatives of the Vietnamese government refused this request. You can watch the official trailer for the film at www.bychoiceorchance.com.

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An online support, a self-help group, film and lots of video/articles and awareness campaigns are not enough to change the situation. Only education can bring a hope! So, it was after these events that the organisation you see today known as Coins for Change was created and the incredible story & efforts of Ms Tang Duyen Hong continue to this day, aided by the unreplaceable support of volunteers just like you who continue to work tirelessly to better support women and children in Vietnam in different ways.

 

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Being a single mother in Vietnam

Women in Vietnam are very much second class citizens with minimal power and status in comparison to men, they are often at risk of abuse, disempowerment, and displacement within society if they find themselves outside the norm of the traditional culture.

Vietnam remains a country where deep-rooted social and traditional values prevail and women are expected to submit to the wishes of men. Women who do not fit the traditional expectations of society, such as single mothers and disabled women, are subject to great stigma and are often ostracized and shunned from their communities and wider society.

Sadly, many single mothers have found themselves bringing up a child alone because of circumstances such as being rejected by their husband and family, or because of abuse. The divorce rate in Vietnam has increased significantly, growing by 50% since 2005 (Bland, 2011) and looks set to continue. As such, challenges that these women face will continue to grow and require support not just from government but also from nonprofits and social enterprises such as C4C.