When we were invited to Vietnam by Coca-Cola, we were intrigued to see what they were doing to give back to the community and needed to know more. We read up on Coca-Cola’s corporate responsibility project, Ekocenters, that were taking shape in helping the different communities in Vietnam. At the beginning of December, we headed to Ho Chi Minh City to learn from Coca-Cola and the Vietnamese community.
When we arrived at our hotel, we were advised to avoid drinking tap water. Similarly, due to climate change, which is occurring at a rapid pace, the residents of Vietnam are unable to drink the tap water.
What is an Ekocenter and what does it have to do with water?
There are three Ekocenters in Vietnam, 102 all around the world. We visited two of the Ekocenters in Vietnam — one in Ho Chi Minh City and the other in Ben Tre, in the province of Mekong Delta. An Ekocenter is similar to a community center which consists of a kiosk that is the hub to a variety of initiated activities that are focusing on safe-drinking water, free wifi and computer access, as well as additional services, such as free health checks, and a variety of skill-based classes to support communities and the social enterprises.
When we arrived at the Ekocenter in HCMC, we saw many local families filling up bottles of water to bring home. The sign at the Ekocenter informs the residents that they are entitled to 10L of water per day that has been filtered at no cost to them. We spoke to a few of the locals and asked them about the impact that the Ekocenter has had on their lives. When we asked one woman what she did for water before the facility was open, she responded, “I had to boil or buy my water. There was never a guarantee that the quality of the water was good.” She also mentioned that since the Ekocenter has opened, she trusts the quality of the water and she saves money by utilizing this system. Not only does she not have to purchase the water but she also saves money by saving the electricity she used to boil her water. Everyone we spoke to felt the same way.
We felt truly inspired after seeing the Ekocenter in Ho Chi Ming City and continued to learn more about Coca-Cola and the three “W’s” of this project.
Water, Women, Well-Being
You may think that to a social media influencer, the three “W’s” stand for world wide web, but after visiting the Ekocenter in Ho Chi Minh City, “W” means so much more to the Savvy Sassy Moms.
We learned that the three “W’s” stand for women, water and well being. Coca-Cola’s water stewardship program consciously reduces the consumption of water at their factories and provide clean drinking water for local communities. We have already told you about the water, so now let us tell you about the women.
How is Coca-Cola helping women?
At the Ekocenter we visited in Ho Chi Minh City, we saw firsthand, how women were given the skills needed to run the kiosk. The kiosk at each Ekocenter, along with the Ekocenters themselves, are run by women. At the kiosk, members from the community can come and purchase drinks and a variety of grocery items.
Coca-Cola has partnered with The Women’s Union of Vietnam, to empower women and push them forward in the workforce. The Women’s Union elects one woman to run the Ekocenter for a two-year term. During these two years, she learns how to run her own business so that when she is done, she is able to go out and start a business of her own using the skills that she has learned.
When we spoke with Tham (pictured above), the woman currently running the Ekocenter in HCMC, she told us how the Ekocenter has changed her life. Running this business has allowed her to earn her own income so that she can support her family. In addition, she is now able to care for her family because of the flexible work hours. She also shared with us, that she takes pride in caring for her community and showing the local community how to get their clean water as well as share with them what services are available daily. Most importantly, she is proud of the work that she does everyday.
By empowering women in the local communities to become leaders, they are able to help these women and members of the community, by building self-esteem, skill-sets, good practices, increase economic activity by increasing household income and increasing confidence in women.
The female leaders, acting as part of the economic empowerment and entrepreneurship programs in Vietnam, represent change. These female leaders inspire change as they learn to support one another to deploy women entrepreneurs in the workforce. By promoting women leaders, we create an infrastructure to support families around the world and are able to help improve a wide range of development outcomes.
The Golden Triangle Partnership
The Golden Triangle represents a partnership between civil society, businesses and the government to utilize each partners strengths in order to change the lives of women in Vietnam.
As an example, the Coca-Cola Foundation and USAID work collaboratively with other organizations including Women’s Unions and PACT to enhance the lives of women by offering the opportunity to improve their understanding of financial literacy. Meetings are set up to help women develop social and economic skills, resulting in 4900 Vietnamese women increasing their household income and developing small business and new skill sets. When the three tiers come together, the impact of the collaboration is so much larger, making the Golden Triangle Partnership a huge success.
As part of giving back to the community and corporate social responsibility, it is imperative that we take it upon ourselves to help others in need. After visiting the Ekocenters and Vietnam and witnessing firsthand how Coca-Cola and other corporations are helping different communities, it is our hope to raise awareness for something we so often take for granted.
This trip was paid for by Coca-Cola. All opinions are our own.