Follow Us:

‘As We Grow Up’: Viet Nam Youth Talk Sexual Health in Groundbreaking Exhibition

03.07.2014

Viet Nam is undergoing a period of tremendous social transformation and this extends to the sexual norms and behaviors of the country’s youth. Those between the ages of 10-29 now account for 40% of Viet Nam’s population and many in the country are becoming sexually active at an earlier age. Unfortunately, limited access to information or contraceptives means that many of them are not practicing safe sex.

Recognizing the potential danger, the country’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) in 2011 made it a priority to develop ways to involve students, parents and teachers in efforts to educate young people about sexuality and HIV & AIDS education. The following year, extensive research was conducted by MOET with UNESCO support which confirmed that young people lacked sexual and reproductive health knowledge and that there was a desire among the public for creative channels to deliver these important messages.

The “As We Grow Up” exhibition was launched in Ha Noi in November of 2013 to answer this need. Along with a display of photos, artwork and stories pertaining to sexuality and issues of sexual and reproductive health, the exhibition also offered a non-judgmental space where young people could freely discuss these sensitive topics and share their experiences.

The exhibition has proven a hit and confirmed the public appetite for this information. After six months, the exhibition has attracted more than 105,000 visitors, nearly 68,000 of whom were Vietnamese. Of these, 24,000 were between the ages of 11 and 24, comprising 36% of total visitors.

An additional 24,800 visitors were between the ages of 25-35, reflecting an interest in learning more about healthy sexuality and safe sex beyond the targeted age range. Teachers, young parents, as well as young couples and others who previously had difficulty obtaining this information were among this group. Interestingly, 17% of visitors were under 11 years old, reflecting the information needs of these children and possibly the earlier start of puberty.

The exhibition is fully informative with eye-catching and interesting arrangements of photos, written messages and drawings,” said Nguyen Thi Kim Anh, a university student, who visited “As We Grow Up”.

I came to know quite a lot about the issues relevant to people our age through the exhibit and the leaflets distributed there,” she said. “I was excited to learn more from stories and information shared here that were based on real-life experience.”

Young people had a powerful voice in choosing what went into the exhibition and that shows in the topics covered. They have been involved in every step of the process from the initial research and collecting information and stories to setting up the exhibition and facilitating the activities.

Puberty, friendship, love, and safe sex, were among the areas of focus. Self-identity was another focus, from gender identification to issues of gender diversity, equality and the damage done by stereotypes.

The exhibition also featured interactive elements, including educational games, quizzes and “message trees”, and “Windows of Love Offline”, a bi-monthly event where in-depth discussions on these sensitive topics took place.

These events attracted more than 800 adolescent and young people on five separate attending five separate half-day sessions on various themes from November 2013 till April 2014, on various themes.

Hien, 17, one of the 60 student volunteers who helped organize the activities, was impressed by the frank discussions prompted by Windows of Love Offline.

This exhibition has been exciting because no one here is afraid of talking about sensitive issues", said Hien.

Linh, a local university student and peer educator for the exhibition, appreciated the opportunity to speak to other young people about these issues. “As a young person myself, I wanted to talk to and change the thinking of those who are as young as I am.”

The programme has also proven to be a successful collaboration among partners. MOET provided leadership and oversight, the Youth Union facilitated close links with and the wider participation of young people, the Museum of Ethnology shared its extensive experience hosting exhibitions, while UN agencies provided technical expertise and international good practice knowledge.

The exhibition has been praised as a vivid example of “Delivering as One” among UN agencies in Viet Nam, with UNESCO taking the lead. Information was shared and discussed at different Joint Programming Groups, including HIV & AIDS, Gender and the Youth Working Group. As part of this process, UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNODC UNWOMEN and UNICEF have also contributed relevant materials, technical inputs as well as financial support for a portion of the interactive activities.

The number of partners and the extent of the collaboration has broadened the range of expertise that can be drawn upon as well as opened up the results to a wider audience. “As We Grow Up”, then, has become a platform to foster healthier lifestyles and to address sexuality education as a tool in a young person’s healthy development.

Through this exhibition, we would like to encourage young people, teachers, and parents to have a more open view on discussions on healthy sexuality and to understand these stories of ‘growing up’ to live safer and healthier lives”, said MOET Vice Minister Tran Quang Quy, at the event’s launch.

Videos can be accessed at:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=685802714805850&set=vb.144149749129468&type=2&theater

News items published in the UNESCO Hanoi's website can be accessed at: www.unesco.org/new/en/hanoi/about-this-office/single-view/news/what_are_young_people_learning_about_gender_love_and_safe_sex/

 

For more information, please contact:

Vu Nguyet Minh
National HIV and Education Programme Officer
UNESCO Ha Noi Office
Email: vn.minh@unesco.org
  

 

Related Links:

Final youth dialogue from sexuality exhibition: working together to stop school violence

Vietnamese young students discuss gender stereotypes

"Windows of Love Offline" photo diary of the 15 February 2014 session

Follow up on "As We Grow Up" exhibition! 

Joint UN exhibition "As We Grow Up" opens next week, 1 November 2013