Nguyen Thi Na (not her real name), a 35-year-old resident of Tien Du District in northern Bac Ninh Province , has been the victim of domestic violence for about four years now.

Beaten and insulted by her husband, who is an alcoholic, Na has struggled on as the bread winner of the family as her husband is unable to find a stable job. The family seems to be doing well financially with a proper home and nice furniture, largely thanks to Na's efforts in farming and poultry breeding. However, the couple does not have a happy family life.

Their marriage started out well in 1994, resulting in the births of two children, but things got worse from 2008 when Na's husband became an alcoholic.

Every night, when her husband got drunk, he threw things about the house, insulted his wife, and sometimes even hit her.

"I don't dare to fight back because people here are prejudiced against women who fight back against their husbands," said Na in a voice choked with tears.

Na is among 75 women who sought help from the local authorities to intervene and end domestic violence in their families. Na sent a petition to the Commune People's Committee after she heard of a project aimed at curbing domestic violence in Tien Du District.

Informed of Na's situation, officials from the local People's Committee and the Women's Union visited her family, offered advice to the couple and warned the husband of the consequences.

The situation seemed to get better after a while; although it was not fully solved as the husband's addiction to alcohol had not ended. He behaves well during the day when he is sober, but still verbally abuses his wife and sometimes displays violent behaviour. Na says he resents her for reporting their family problem.

"No wife sends a petition against her husband," said the husband.

Local officials continue to keep track of Na's life and visit her home regularly.

Na is not alone when it comes to domestic violence. According to Ngo Thi Nga, chairwoman of the Women's Union of Phat Tich Commune, Tien Du District, from 2007 to the present, there have been nearly 200 cases of domestic violence reported in the commune.

From early 2011, 20 cases have been reported.

Nga said the cases resulted from financial difficulties, limited knowledge of the law and infidelity.

But an important deep-rooted cause is the social mentality of men believing they are superior to women, Nga said at a community meeting held as part of a project on financing work aimed at reducing domestic violence.

Nguyen Thi Hoai Linh, the project's head, also deputy head of the International Relations Department under the Vietnam Women's Union , had the same opinion.

Linh said because of this attitude of male superiority, many men feel they have the right to impose their will on their wives.

Since the launch of the project in March, 2010, however, the situation has seemed to improve.

The ill-treated now have access to legal advise, as is the case for Na. They are encouraged to speak out and their concerns are now listened to. Some receive protection from the police, who are co-operating with the project.

Victims' husbands have become less inclined to violent behaviour after receiving counselling from social workers or being warned by the police.

Linh said the project's most notable success is to create a network where different agencies, including the women's union, legal forces, the media and police, join hands to improve the situation.

The set-up of support groups at local levels and the presence of social workers is a lifeline for desperate wives, who may need help at almost any time of the day, even late at night.

"The support provided by social workers may help save the lives of the women if they attempt to commit suicide or if their husbands go out of control."

The project has also helped organise regular community meetings in communes and residential areas to raise awareness on women's rights and laws against domestic violence.

"I feel comforted to have had my voice heard, although the problem cannot be solved over night," said Na.

Na said she hopes to have reliable legal advice to either improve the situation or to help her gain a favourable divorce. What she most wants is to gain custody of her children and have a fair share of their property.

The ‘Financial planning capacity to reduce domestic violence' project is being run by the Vietnam Women's Union in six cities and provinces, including northern Bac Ninh Province, central Da Nang City and southern Soc Trang province. It is sponsored by the Spanish Agency for International Development Co-operation./.