Ms Hong belongs to the Muong people, an ethnic minority group in Vietnam which has historically been marginalised.
She is also a member of the local Community Investment Supervision Board (CISB) in Hoa Binh province. The local government created the Board to engage citizens in monitoring public investment.
While this was a great idea, there was one major issue. No one on the Board knew how to do the job. When they were nominated by their community, Ms Hong and the 11 other Board members were just everyday citizens. Most of them made a living through farming. No one was trained in how to monitor the important projects they were supposed to provide feedback on, such as the construction of roads and other public assets.
At first, the Board tried their best to monitor public works in the commune. But without the training and tools, they weren’t effective. Any concerns they raised went unaddressed by the local government.
Learning about their rights
Frustrated by their lack of progress, Ms Hong and the Board attended a training session hosted by Action on Poverty in Vietnam and the Vietnam Fatherland Front. Here, Ms Hong learned what she needed to know about citizens’ rights, monitoring procedures, and reporting.
With the help of the CISB Handbook – an easy-to-use guide with practical tools for monitoring, inspecting and reporting on construction – Ms Hong and the Board successfully evaluated plans for a new communal house. They found that the placement of the entrance didn’t make sense. Ms Hong also led a stakeholder dialogue, which gathered the opinions of the whole community.
Becoming a voice for the community
Ms Hong and the Board presented their findings to the construction company and investors. When they voiced their concerns about the design, the construction company listened to the people and adjusted their plans accordingly.
The Board has continued to use the CISB Handbook for monitoring the construction of the communal house. The Book has become so successful in Hoa Binh that several other provinces are also using it.
As for Ms Hong, she is now Vice Heard of her Board.
“Not only does the CISB now have the tools we need for social monitoring, but we feel much more confident in practising our legitimate rights,” she said.
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