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A woman has been hailed for saving newborn babies from certain death brought about by old-fashioned practices and beliefs in an ethnic community in Vietnam.

Dinh Nay Huynh, the head of Ayun Commune’s women’s association in the Chu Se District in the Gia Lai Province, first saved a baby 14 years ago when the mother got pregnant after her first husband had passed away.

To punish the woman for having a baby out of wedlock, the relatives of the late husband planned to murder the baby—a practice that had been followed by the Bana ethnic minority for hundreds of years.

At that time, the practice of burying newborns—including those born out of wedlock and those whose mothers died during labor—was common among the Bana people. According to their beliefs, such babies brought bad luck to villagers and it was only if the baby died along with its mother that the mother’s soul could be at rest.

A crowd gathered around the woman when she went into labor but no one reached out to help, except for Huynh, who welcomed the baby and immediately took it to a clinic even as a mob chased her, intent on killing the newborn.

Huynh later adopted the child as the mother did not want to raise it.

An earlier turning point for Huynh came in 2001, when she witnessed a newborn baby being stoned to death. As well as robbing her of sleep for many nights, it made Huynh realize that she had to do something for these innocent babies.

She first sought the help of local authorities in a bid to persuade the villagers to stop their practices. However, fighting centuries-old traditions was not easy.

In 2012, Huynh saved the child of an unmarried couple when she successfully convinced villagers not to force the woman to have an abortion. Later, Huynh became the child’s godmother.

The more the villagers saw Huynh’s commitment to saving babies, the more they came to understand that she was right, and that their traditions belonged to another era. The chairman of the Ayun Commune’s People’s Committee told a local newspaper that Huynh made important contributions that are nothing short of heroic.

At 59 years of age, Huynh now lives with her two adopted children and hopes that children born in the village will no longer suffer from injustice and be able to look forward to lives better than their parents experienced.

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