In Vietnam, WildAct Vietnam partnered with the Vietnamese Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women, and Adolescents (CSAGA) to the Reducing GBV in Vietnamese Conservation project. This project sought to empower local women, leaders, and conservation organizations in Vietnam to address the challenges of gender inequality, harassment, and unsafe working environments that women face in wildlife conservation.
Summary of impact
People trained on GBV prevention
Of participants are more aware of GBV through the project
In Vietnam, conservation professionals, especially women, face significant challenges in the workplace—sexual harassment, physical violence, and sexual assault. In June 2020, WildAct conducted a survey to study GBV in Vietnamese conservation organizations and found that five out of six participants experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Of the participants who experienced sexual harassment at work, five percent also reported attempted rape or rape. Three out of every eight people who experienced sexual harassment chose not to inform their organization, and almost 31 percent of people who shared their experience with colleagues were told that it is “normal.”
Conservation is a male-dominated sector where most mid-level and senior positions are held by men. Research shows that female conservationists are more likely to resign than women in other professions, especially when they work in an unfair and unsafe working environment. While conservation organizations in Vietnam have expressed interest in cultivating a safer workplace environment, many organizations lack the policy framework necessary to do so. WildAct’s survey found that the majority of organizations had no specific sexual harassment policies or regulations in place, and none of the policies included information on existing referral mechanisms for women.
The project aimed to empower women by increasing their agency and improving the conditions in their work environment in line with the CARE Empowerment Framework and the Model of Women and Girls’ Empowerment. WildAct held workshops with employees of international and local wildlife conservation organizations and stakeholders from the national parks to discuss their working environment, including safety while conducting fieldwork and perceptions and experiences of harassment in the workplace. Using results from the workshop and other feedback loops, WildAct and the CSAGA developed safeguarding guidelines that conservation organizations can use to develop and implement their own safeguarding policies.
The project established a Focal Contact Points program, which trains volunteers within a conservation organization to become advocates for colleagues who experience GBV or sexual harassment in the workplace. Focal Contact Points support survivors to navigate organizational policies and procedures and refer them to external services as requested. The project also held meetings with organization and agency managers to exchange knowledge, experiences, and ideas about how to create a safer environment for employees, especially women.
During implementation, WildAct found that leaders in this male-dominated industry often took a defensive posture, making it difficult to engage them in program activities. In response, the project was adapted to design and promote activities that empowered male conservationists to be part of the solution and emphasized the goodwill that gender equity would bring to their organizations.
Over three years of implementation, WildAct Vietnam and CSAGA offered capacity-building around addressing gender inequality, harassment, and unsafe working environments in wildlife conservation to 325 beneficiaries, which includes 222 women and 103 men. The partners also established 27 Focal Contact Points, including 21 women and six men at 18 local and international conservation organizations. The Focal Contact Points were trained as a cohort and received follow-up support from WildAct and CSAGA through an online support group.
WildAct and CSAGA provided 50 organizations with safeguarding guidance, and the project offered Animals Asia Foundation, CHANGE Vietnam, Cat Ba National Park, and Pu Mat National Park private, individually-adapted training to develop their own safeguarding policies. These four organizations participated in the private training sessions on sexual harassment identification, response, and prevention, as well as applying safeguarding guidelines to create a safeguarding policy.
The project empowered women by increasing their agency while improving the conditions and power relations in their work environment by engaging male leaders. For example, Cat Ba National Park and Pu Mat National Park have agreed to develop and pilot safeguarding policies and have taken steps to train their staff to address issues of sexual harassment. WildAct’s and CSAGA’s successes have even reached beyond Vietnam, as they have received requests from conservation organizations in Laos and Cambodia to support them in addressing sexual harassment.