Building Safer Streets for Teenage Girls in Hanoi

Building Safer Streets for Teenage Girls in Hanoi


Girls in a working-class neighborhood are empowered to address dangerous and poorly lit areas and envision a safer and more pleasant walk to school.

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Building Safer Streets for Teenage Girls in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam
Project type
: Pedestrian safety
Collaborators: UN-Habitat Hanoi, Plan International, North Thang Long Economic & Technical College
Region: Asia and Pacific
Themes: empowering women and girls, public safety and security, children and youth, education and schools


Hanoi is the second largest city in Vietnam and continues to experience rapid growth (almost doubling its population since the year 2000). Known for its centuries-old architecture and blend of Asian, Chinese, and French influences, it features a melange of neighborhoods old and new, with a sometimes chaotic network of streets to navigate.

In Kim Chung, one of Hanoi’s working-class neighborhoods, many of the local girls travel miles every day to reach school, through some dangerous, poorly lit areas. This area was selected for special attention, with the goal of engaging the girls who use the space to come up with ideas to make their daily commutes safer and more pleasant.

Building Safer Streets, Block by Block

As part of the Block by Block Workshop in early 2017, the schoolgirls did “safety walks” to analyze the area. Common problems that emerged were inadequate lighting, dark corners where criminals could hide, and piles of garbage. One particularly scary area was a tunnel under a five-lane highway where they couldn’t easily be seen or heard if something went wrong.

I hate the tunnel and never like to walk through it by myself, but I have to do it at least twice per day when I go to school. We have lots of ideas how to make it nicer so that people will learn to treat it better and then it can be a safer place for everyone.
— Nguyen Ngoc Anh (age 15), Block by Block Workshop participant

Forty-five of the girls then worked in teams and used Minecraft to reimagine the neighborhood around their school. The plans they created depicted their neighborhood as a safer, more functional place through improvements both large and small. They then presented their ideas to a group of non-government organizations and Vietnamese politicians. Their suggestions included unbreakable streetlights and lighted walkways, installations of trash cans, and improved signage and public restrooms. Additionally, they suggested specific ideas to improve safety in the area, including the addition of women-only coffee shops and shelters, security fences, and a free phone to call for help.

It was really fun and exciting to have an idea and then be able to make it to show to adults.
— Phan Thi Ngoc Huyen (age 15), Block by Block Workshop participant


While the exercise provided local leaders with concrete ways to improve the Kim Chung neighborhood, an additional benefit was the way it empowered the girls who participated. They experienced the confidence-building effects of using technology, presenting their ideas to those in power, and discovering that their views matter and could be a catalyst for change.