Empowering women with safe, decent shelter

“I am looking forward to the changes in our lives. It will be less difficult, less hot and less leaky in our home”, says Tran Kim Xuyen, 74, a grandmother living in rural Tân Thành district, Bà Ria-Vũng Tàu province, Vietnam.

Tran Kim Xuyen (front) with her son Nguyen Hoang Phuong.

Xuyen has been through great hardship in her life, but is now feeling much more positive about her future after moving in to a new home built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers. She continues: “My health can now get better, and worries about our damaged home won’t bother me anymore.”

Today (8 March 2014), International Women’s Day, provides the opportunity to acknowledge to the strength of female Habitat home partners like Xuyen.

Family tragedy

Xuyen raised two sons – Nguyen Hoang Phuong, 53, and Nguyen Anh Dung, 50. Just four months ago, Dung sadly passed away due to complications related to liver disease. So now Xuyen lives with just Phuong, who suffered a brain injury following an accident in 2001. “The doctor said he only had a 10 percent chance of survival”, remembers Xuyen, visibly reliving her sorrow. “Had it not been for his aunt’s financial support, I would have been left to face a horrendous situation.” In the same accident, Phuong also fractured a bone in his thigh which required fitting metal implants. They are now a frequent source of pain, especially when the weather changes.

The accident left Phuong unable to continue working as a mason, and he has now turned to collecting and selling rubbish. Their household income fluctuates from US1 to US4.80 each day, which just about covers basic necessities like food, water, electricity and medicine. Often lacking money, Xuyen is forced to borrow from her kind neighbors.

Xuyen needs medication for her high blood pressure and arthritis. She used to find solace through regular visits to a nearby pagoda where she helped to cook for the monks there; however her deteriorating health has taken away this source of serenity for her.

Their old house was not a comfortable place for Xuyen and her family. Built in 2009, the home had become dilapidated with a temporary corrugated iron and thatch roof, metal sheeting for walls and untreated columns. Branches falling on to the roof had caused cracks, and rain water leaking in exacerbated its deterioration. Flooding was also common. Their kitchen consisted of a very small space outside, where an open fire allowed them to cook simple dishes.

New home, better future

Habitat for Humanity Vietnam supported Xuyen and Phuong with funding and volunteer labor to build a new home. Volunteers from steel-making giant POSCO were involved in building 10 homes like Xuyen’s, eight of which were for female-headed families, around Tet or Vietnamese New Year. With some additional financial assistance from Dung’s widow and her grandson to further improve the house, Xuyen and Phuong moved into their new 38-square-meter home on 25 January 2014.

“I hope more families will receive help as well”, shared Xuyen.

Habitat for Humanity Vietnam has supported more than 11,000 families to live in safe, decent homes since 2001. With your support, we can help a greater number of families and vulnerable women like Xuyen.

International Women’s Day 2014

A variety of Habitat for Humanity events will be taking place across the Asia-Pacific region to recognize International Women’s Day on Saturday 8 March –

  • Habitat for Humanity India is hosting a weeklong Women Build event in one of Delhi’s slum resettlement colonies. The build will culminate with a celebration on 8 March.
  • In Bangladesh, a one-day Women Build event takes place on 8 March with participants from embassies and local education institutions.
  • Habitat for Humanity Malaysia is hosting a build in Selangor state – near Kuala Lumpur – on 8 March in partnership with Pfizer.

Further reading

In 2011, Habitat for Humanity International’s Women Build program commissioned a study to examine the impact of homeownership on women. Four countries, including Vietnam, were included in the study to better understand the role of housing on the well-being of women and children. Click here to read the study.