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Institute for Social Development Studies

 
 
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Capacity Enhancement for Research on Sexuality and Sexual Health in Vietnam

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Rationale

Because of multiple cultural and political factors, until very recently the issues of sexuality and sexual health (SSH) in Vietnam were not considered as serious subjects for social science research.  Only with the opening of society, the growing economic integration, the development of social sciences, particularly challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic etc. that SSH ceases to be associated with morality and emerges as an important topic.  As society’s concerns of high teen abortion rates, divorce, sex work, and HIV/AIDS infection are growing, policy makers, program managers, and researchers are now beginning to feel the urgent needs for more information and actions on SSH in Vietnam.

In 2000, with a grant from the Ford Foundation, a research team led by Drs. Le Bach Duong and Khuat Thu Hong conducted a review of literature on SSH in Vietnam in order to identify research gaps and suggest new research directions.  In June 2001, a national workshop was held in Hanoi to get further inputs from a wider range of participants.  As a result, the following issues and needs were collectively identified:  (1) There is a serious lack of information, both primary and secondary, of SSH and related  issues.  Presently, the literature on SSH is not only fragmented but also scattered among different institutions.  This situation also leads to studies which are overlapped, biased, theoretically ungrounded, methodologically weak, or even anomalous.  There should be the construction of a multidisciplinary and multilevel database which will be continuously updated; (2)  Research on SSH in Vietnam is very limited in areas and topics covered as well as depth of investigation.  Existing research is not only in the early phase, but also cast within the paradigm of “problem-oriented” research, i.e. focusing on various implications of SSH rather than SSH per se, let alone the complex relationships between SSH and other social and cultural processes.  So not only there is a need to study how social change affect SSH but also vice versa, and the understanding of one dimension helps to better understand the other. Further more, research in SSH often lacks methodological rigor, thus usually produces unreliable results. Thus, there is a need for a culture of research in which expertise on many disciplines and at many levels converge, in order to gain a better understanding of SSH, and SSH in its relationship with fast paced processes of social change.

More importantly, the importance of linking research to policies has so far been seriously ignored in Vietnam.  Research is often made for its own sake without providing implications for policy making.  As such, there is an urgent need to produce research that informs policies, policy making bodies, and their constituencies, particularly those that focus on many facets of the linkages between SSH, including sexual well-being and sexual rights, and development in Vietnam.

Center for Development Studies (renamed to Institute for Social Development Studies in November 2003) let by Drs. Khuat Thu Hong and Le  Bach Duong has developed a program aimed at enhancement of capacity in research  on sexuality and sexual health and submitted to the Ford Foundation for support. The proposed program has been approved by the Ford Foundation  and received financial support with an amount of USD172,000 for the period of 24 months, starting from August 2002 to July 2004.

Program's Objectives

The overall goal of this program is to enhance research capacity on SSH in Vietnam through: (i) the establishment for the first time in Vietnam a resource center for research on SSH; (ii) the development of multidisciplinary research on SSH that inform policies and draw directions for further studies in future; and (iii) the whole program will be further supported with technical assistance from selected prominent international experts.  The implementing agency will be the Center for Social Development Studies (renamed  to Institute for Social Development Studies in November 2003). Later, the project has been extended to December 2006.

Out puts

During this phase, the Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS) – the project implementing agency – have successfully completed the following activities:

  • Established for the first time in Vietnam the Resource Center on Gender, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health, housed at ISDS.  Activities of the Center consists of: (i) library services with almost 4000 books, articles, reports and related materials on the above topics; (ii) information provision through web-site; and (iii) seminar series Gender, Sexuality and Society.
  • A situation analysis and a larger qualitative study on sexuality and sexual health in Vietnam at four provinces/cities – Hanoi, Ha Tay, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho. The data collected by these two studies have been intensively used for ISDS to develop strategies and programs on research, training and advocacy on SSH in Vietnam. In particular, the data later served as material for the research on social construction of sexuality in Viet Nam by Dr. Khuat Thu Hong and Dr. Le Bach Duong and other senior researchers. As its result, the book Sexuality in contemporary Vietnam: Easy to joke about but hard to talk about, later was published in summer 2009. A part of the dataset also has been used by Dr Khuat Thi Hai Oanh for her MA thesis on sexuality education in family at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2005.
  • A report on policies and legal framework relating to issues of sexuality and sexual health in Vietnam.
  • Collecting and analyzing secondary literature on sexuality and sexual health from national media.  While extensive literature review of the issues of sexuality and sexual health were already made in the first 18 months of the project, for the extended period, the research team decided to inquire these issues further by looking at public journals and magazines in order to observe changes in tastes and expressions relating to SSH, as reflection of rapid social change that is taking place in Vietnam.  The analysis of these materials has deepen the understanding of the SSH issues in Vietnam, and was incorporated into the writing of the book.
  • Regular in-house training is organized to build the research and advocacy capacity of ISDS staff, on three areas: (i) social sciences, particularly sociology; (ii) social science research methods; (iii) strategic issues (HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, sexuality, etc.).  Trainers include both senior staff of ISDS and guest lecturers.

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  • Selecting and translating important academic articles and from English to Vietnamese for the Resource Center’s collection. These articles were used in the training and kept at the library as resource to serve the readers.
 
 
 
 
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