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At a glance: Viet Nam

Healthy-living education builds teens’ confidence across Viet Nam

© UNICEF Viet Nam/2006/Nettleton
Ma Thi Nut, 16, and her friends attend a UNICEF-supported Healthy Living Club where they learn how to deal with social issues.

By Steve Nettleton

LANG SON, Viet Nam, 3 November 2006 –  Balancing a pair of watering pails with a stick across her shoulders, Ma Thi Nut navigates through a cabbage field, tilting to wet crops on both sides of a narrow path.

At 16, Nut is no longer in school. Instead, fulfilling the traditional role of women in her ethnic minority, she spends her days watering crops and collecting firewood in the hills of northern Viet Nam, a few kilometres from the China border.

This pastoral lifestyle stands in stark contrast to the bustling corridor of nearby Lang Son, one of the biggest border openings between Viet Nam and China. As with many borders, it is also a gateway for black-market goods, trafficking of women and children, and other criminal activities.

Understanding social issues

To help out-of-school youths like Nut identify and avoid risky behaviours, UNICEF supports a Healthy Living Club near her home. Through songs, games and other activities, she and her fellow teenagers learn how to deal with issues of drug abuse, HIV and peer pressure.

© UNICEF Viet Nam/2006/Nettleton
No longer in school, Ma Thi Nut waters crops near her rural home in northern Viet Nam.

Nut feels these lessons give her more self-confidence. “I understand more about social issues – for example, the harmfulness of drinking and trafficking across the border,” she says.

The Healthy Living Club is an extension of a broad effort by UNICEF to empower young people, boost their participation in the community and improve their communication skills. Healthy-living education programmes also have been introduced at 110 junior high schools in eight provinces across Viet Nam, including schools in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phong.

‘I feel more confident’

At Na Sam Junior High school in Lang Son Province, eighth-grader Nguyen Viet Khanh takes part in a healthy-living class. Through interactive discussions and role-playing, the class tackles problems like preventing HIV and dealing with stress.

“I feel more confident because I understand more about the problems and I know how to prevent them and deal with the situation,” says Khanh.

Whether in or out of the classroom, healthy-living education is giving young people the skills they need to take control of their own lives.




31 October 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on UNICEF-supported Healthy Living Clubs for adolescents living in Viet Nam’s frontier regions.
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