Viet Nam as a member of the United Nations (UN) and a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) supports the UN in embracing a people-centred approach to development. This approach recognises the essential role of public participation where the public can meaningfully contribute to Government decisions.
People are working in Sapa O’Chau, the first social enterprise in Sapa adopting community-based tourism by an H’mong person. — Photo Courtesy of Tan Thi Su
The UN defines a set of global community actions to ensure current and future generations benefit from increased opportunities and mitigated risks. Its agenda outlines measures for generating opportunities to improve people’s lives. Regarding young people, the agenda stresses addressing needs by deepening the youth focus of existing programmes on employment, entrepreneurship, decision-making inclusion and citizenship.
It is estimated that about 30 per cent of Vietnamese population are adolescents and youth. This figures translate into Viet Nam having entered a ‘demographic bonus’ period. During this period that will last for about 30 years, there are two or more economically productive persons for every dependent person. Such a period, if well managed, is a great opportunity to drive a nation’s development.
The revised Constitution of Viet Nam (2013) enshrines equality between all citizens, containing provisions to protect the rights of children, adolescents and young people. It also recognises obligations of the family, the State and society to create conditions for young people to develop.
One of the most significant developments for young people in Viet Nam was the enactment of the Youth Law in 2005. The law marks a major step towards improving the lives of young people and a number of action plans were introduced to enact the law. Another major development was the Vietnamese Youth Development Strategy for 2011-20.
Despite the existence of laws and policies, the capacity of institutions to implement and monitor policies targeting young people is limited in Viet Nam. While the law and the strategy address young people’s needs in various aspects of life, in delivering policies and programmes to address the gaps remain and reflect the fragmentation in policies and interventions targeting young people.
Tan Thi Su, Youth Entrepreneur and Leader
As a young person and a youth leader, I believe that if these gaps are addressed, young people like me will be empowered to achieve our full potential to benefit the country’s sustainable development.
My ability to contribute to the community where I live exemplifies the fact that a piece of the puzzle can make a picture by inviting other pieces together. My sense of purpose – the purpose of giving back to the community, of being part of change for the better – opened the first door to my dream of setting up a community-oriented entrepreneurship helping local young people have an education and learn the skills to start an enterprise.
Starting off as a street peddler selling handicrafts to tourists, in 2007, I founded Sapa O’Chau, the first social enterprise in Sapa adopting community-based tourism by an H’mong person. It follows the youth-reinvestment model that allows profits to be spent on local young people. And it is thriving.
I exemplify the fact that social norms can be challenged and changed. I have proven that H’mong women in particular and ethnic minority women in general can learn, start a business and follow our dreams to help other people and contribute to development.
I used to be afraid of being vulnerable but along the way, I realised that if you knock on a door, the door will open and supports will come from the community and localities to guide your way.
Attending the International Youth Day 2017 held by the UN in Viet Nam, I got to know many other young people from different backgrounds – people with disabilities, the LGBT community, migrants, entrepreneurs.
Despite this diversity, we all embrace these common factors: we are young, we want to contribute to sustainable development and are capable of having our say in decision making.
Greater investment in human capital development including education, health care, employment, entrepreneurship and opportunities to participate in policy making for young people is needed. Young people dominate migration flows and more enter the workforce each year. Their success and well-being require targeted policies and services to allow young people to reach their full potential, enjoy fulfilling lives and securing Viet Nam’s capacity to sustain future generations.
Tan Thi Su, Youth Entrepreneur and Leader