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The will to live of the CEO with disability


Thao Van, who is wheelchair-bound, two years ago attended the 10 week course ‘Enabling Women’s Safety and Child Protection’ course at Flinders University, Adelaide under an Australia Awards Fellowship. The course in Australia had great impact on her career and life and gave her more confidence to continue her work assisting people with disability. “Coming back to Vietnam, I realised that Australia had taken many practical and specific actions to promote the integration of people with disabilities,” the CEO said.

Ms Van participates in alumni ativities

After receiving an Australia Awards Fellowship, Thao Van actively participates in alumni activities, wishing to share her experience as well as to gain more knowledge on issues concerning people with disability and women in leadership.

Based on the ideas she learnt in Australia, Thao Van and some colleagues established the Will to Live Joint Stock Company at the beginning of 2016 with the aim of creating an equitable working environment for all. The company is separate from her existing Will to Live Center which specialises in providing training courses for disadvantaged students.

The Will to Live Company has become one of the leading post-production providers in Vietnam for real estate marketing industry, specializing in 2 - 3D photo, video, and IT solutions. Among the company founders, three are wheelchair users and over 70% of its staff are persons with disability.

Furthermore, the success of the “I’m beautiful, you too” fashion show featuring women with disability, which Thao Van helped to organise in Australia, inspired her to carry out three more such events in Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City on her return to Vietnam. The fashion shows were widely reported in the mass media.

The aim of the fashion shows was to combat discrimination on the basis of appearance and help people with disability become more confident. A documentary movie about the fashion shows with the same name, produced by Vietnam Television (VTV), reached the final of the Abu Prizes 2016, the annual awards of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.

Thao Van sharing her thoughts with the audience at the screening of the documentary I am beautiful you too

Thao Van sharing her thoughts with the audience at the screening of the documentary “I am beautiful, you too” in Hanoi, December 2016

With a view to continuing the fashion shows success, Thao Van has been encouraging groups of women with disability to organise similar events in local areas to spread the message more widely. She commented that “I’m beautiful, you too” helped people with disability participating in the program create a huge change in their awareness. They are Van’s successors in promoting their voice within their community. For the people who watch the program, they obtain another view of beauty and can respect the differences in appearance.

Thao Van’s main goal is to support the full integration of people with disability into the community. She said “With this job, I can talk with people with disability to prevent the risks associated with domestic violence and discrimination associated with gender-based violence. These are not only issues relating to vocational training and livelihood but also to knowledge about how they can enjoy gender equality and avoid the sexual abuse.”

Besides her main job in the Will to Live Center and Company, Thao Van has been the coordinator and MC of the program Beautiful Life at VTV4 from May 2016. This is a great opportunity for her to reach out to more people with disability as well as to television editors.

Nguyen Thao Van is an outstanding representative showcasing women in leadership as well as contributing to the community of people with disability

Nguyen Thao Van, Director of Will to Live Centre, is an outstanding representative showcasing women in leadership as well as contributing to the community of people with disability – two of the important objectives of the Government of Australia for Vietnam.

Thao Van added “When a handicapped person gets the chance to become the host of a national television channel, this inspires and encourages other handicapped people. They think differently about the prejudices they have against themselves and the door can open for them to pursue the dreams of things that they never thought they could do”.

She believes that in the future the Australian Government will have more programs to increase the opportunities for disadvantaged communities in Vietnam, as in the two years since she returned home, Australia has taken many practical actions to promote the integration of people with disability in Vietnam.

“I believe that there will be many opportunities for disadvantaged communities in Vietnam in the future”, she said.

Thao Van’s strong desire is to create more beautiful things for her own life as well as the community she is supporting.


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