Non-State bodies will for the first time be eligible for legal assistance ODA if they submit successful applications to the Justice Initiative Facilitation Fund (JIFF).

JIFF, which has a budget of 1.7 million EURO (2.2 million USD) up until June 2015, is a joint programme organised by the Ministry of Justice, the European Union and the embassies of Sweden and Denmark.

"This is the first time the Government has used ODA to fund non-State projects in the judicial field, which reflects well on its great effort and open attitude to legal reforms," said Nguyen Thi Bich Diep, JIFF's justice initiative advisor.

All funding to non-State bodies will be in four key areas – popularising the rights and opportunities of individuals under the law, improving access to independent legal advice, increasing the public's understanding of judicial reforms that have taken place and dialogue and information sharing on matters that have arisen following judicial reform.

Dao Soat, president of the Vietnam Blind Association, which was founded in 1969 and has more than a million members in the country, said his association was preparing to submit an application for funding.

"Many blind people have limited access to education and are unfamiliar with the legal system and their rights," he said.

In the last few months, JIFF has conducted research into the needs of the non-State sector. "Many organisations have carried out judicial projects, but most of them have only focused on improving popular awareness of the legal system," Diep said.

"They have not been able to provide people with legal advice when they actually encounter difficulties."

Lam Thi Thu Suu, president of the Centre for Social Research and Development based in Hue , said JIFF had been a boon for small and recently established organisations such as hers.

"Up to now, this kind of funding has only gone to large well-known organisations. JIFF has opened new doors for us," she said.

Suu has proposed using the fund to provide legal assistance to local women in central Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces.

"There is a big population of migrant workers working on construction projects in these areas," she said.

"These workers are usually men who left their families and therefore lack emotional support. They fell in love with local women, many of whom are from minority groups, had kids, then left."

She said her organisation wanted to provide legal advice to those women so they fully understood their rights and opportunities.

First applications for JIFF funding must be made by October 29.

The organisation will accept new applications every six months./.