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Dr Khuat Thi Hai Oanh, Winner of the 2016 Vision Award for Inspiring Women

A MEDICAL DOCTOR who has dedicated her life to the plight of some of Vietnam’s most marginalised people has been named this year’s winner of the Vision Award for Inspiring Women.

Dr Khuat Thi Hai Oanh, founder and director of the Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI) has been honoured with the Award last month at a special event that was timed to coincide with Vietnamese Women’s Day. 

The President of HIWC, Mrs Gill Lever said,  “A talented, intelligent and ambitious woman like Dr Oanh could have chosen any career path. She could have taken the path to wealth or self-advancement. Instead she took a difficult and challenging route by making it her mission to improve the lives of people living at the very edges of society.  For this, Dr Oanh deserves enormous respect and admiration and we are delighted to be able to honour her with our Award.”

Dr Oanh has dedicated her professional life to improving access to reproductive healthcare and HIV/Aids awareness among Vietnam’s at-risk groups. She also regularly advises government policy-makers on tackling drug use.

HIWC’s Vision Award, she says, was such a ‘wonderful surprise’. Dr Oanh continued, “It’s a big honour to be granted this award from the HIWC, a group that’s special to me because it was the first organization that gave funding to the Bright Future Group – a community organisation of people who live with HIV in Hanoi. With HIWC funding, Bright Future was able to set up Cafe P.P. – a safe place for people living with HIV to meet and interact. This was in 2002, a time when there was no treatment in Vietnam. People living with HIV were severely stigmatized and discriminated against. Being infected with HIV was equal to a painful and shameful death. 

“It was from Cafe P.P. that the movement of people living with HIV in Vietnam was born, nurtured and evolved. Bright Future developed into a network that connected, empowered, supported and inspired people living with HIV to stand up for themselves, to have the will to live, to seek treatment and to be members of family and society. In 2007, Bright Future joined my organization to start the Vietnam Civil Society Partnership Platform on AIDS Vcspa Việt Nam, which brings community organizations from all over the country together to fight AIDS and to protect the dignity of the most marginalized of people. 

“I have visited Cafe P.P. many times and witnessed the movement grow. This movement has contributed to shape my professional path and my life as a person. This award, therefore, is very special for me – because it comes from my women fellows, and even more special for me, because of the connection I have just shared. I am so proud, and so moved.”

Photographs: Top Left: Dr Khuat Thi Hai Oanh. Bottom Left (from left to right): Director of the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, Nguyen Thi Bich Van, HIWC Community Aid Community Chair Megan Todd, Dr. Oanh, HIWC President Gill Lever.