Ha Giang (VNA) – Darkness prevails Mong ethnic woman Sung Thi Sy’s shabby house on a rocky slope. Her husband comes home late again with a pungent alcohol odour. At that moment, Sy knows very well that tomorrow, as every morning ever, her kids would question her about her swollen and bruising eyes while asking for small change to buy some sweets along their way to school, which she could never give. She starts weeping.
Poverty and domestic violence – Nightmare of Mong ethnic women
Darkness prevails Mong ethnic woman Sung Thi Sy’s shabby house on a rocky slope. Her husband comes home late again with a pungent alcohol odour. At that moment, Sy knows very well that tomorrow, as every morning ever, her kids would question her about her swollen and bruising eyes while asking for small change to buy some sweets along their way to school, which she could never give. She starts weeping.
This is Sung Thi Sy’s story of her life two years ago. Gone are the days when the ethnic woman had to struggle financial problems and domestic violence. She is now director of Sa Phin A Agro-forestry Services Cooperative (White Hemp Cooperative in short) in Dong Van district in the mountainous province of Ha Giang.
“Before working at this cooperative, my family had been struggling with household farming. We hardly could afford rice and meat is somthing that we could only buy once in two months,” Sy recalled. “My husband got so pissed about the family’s financial status that he had to drink the misery away. While being drunk, he beat me and then we both cried in the following morning when our kids went to school with an empty pocket,” Sy added.
Sy told the Vietnam News Agency she wanted to run away for a free future away from this sheer misery but this thought was quickly removed in her head when she saw her family picture. “How could I leave my adorable kids?” she asked herself for a thousand times. Then her life continued to be a vicious circle.
Her story is familiar with many Mong ethnic women in Dong Van border district, which is home to 17 ethnic groups with Mong people accounting for 88% and is among six poor districts in Ha Giang province. Due to rugged terrain and unfavorable weather condition, the district encounters numerous difficulties in economic development.
Because of inferior financial status, many families in Dong Van district had been dogged by tragedies as a lot of Mong ethnic men had illegally crossed the border for work while a number of Mong ethnic women had been trafficked to China or suffered from domestic violence, according to Vang Thi Cau, Vice Chairwoman of Women’s Union of Dong Van district.
Not far from the renowned tourist attraction of Vuong family’s Palace in Sa Phin A hamlet, lays a small but cozy stone house where five to six Mong ethnic women are carrying out different stages of making brocade products. The house is a workshop and also an exhibition room of the White Hemp cooperative.
In September 2017, Sung Thi Sy was approached by Vang Thi Cau, Vice Chairwoman of Women’s Union of Dong Van district, who had nurtured a dream of preserving traditional values of Mong ethnic people in the locality since a kid.
After being convinced by the idea of making money from Mong ethnic people’s traditional brocade weaving, Sung Thi Sy nodded to join Vang Thi Cau in running a brocade weaving cooperative with a hope for a brighter future for her family.
“Since I worked here, I have no longer needed to borrow money for my kids to go to school. My husband now works here too. He works so hard and drinks no more,” Sung told the Vietnam News Agency.
‘Social progresses can only be achieved as women are empowered’
Born into a family of 10 in Dong Van district, Vang Thi Cau had not entered the first grade until she was 17. Thus, she understands the limited intellectual capacity of local women so well. Besides, seeing the darkness of poverty and domestic violence prevailing Mong ethnic community in her hometown since a kid, she had always dreamt of providing local women with a stable job so that they can affirm their role in the society.
“Social progresses can only be achieved as women are empowered”, Cau said, citing Secretary of Dong Van district Party Committee Nguyen Ngoc Thanh as saying.
When working at the Women’s Union of Dong Van district, Cau told Thanh a lot about her dream of opening a workshop for Mong ethnic women so that they can be financially independent and take the wheel of the their life.
“Social progresses can only be achieved as women are empowered. If you are successful in providing jobs for local women, that would be the mass success of our district. We zero in on supporting your idea”, Thanh reiterated every time he met Vang Thi Cau.
The dialogues with Thanh in early 2017 encouraged her to establish Sa Phin A Agro-forestry Services Cooperative in November that year.
Since establishment, the White Hemp Cooperative has always targeted disadvantaged local women.
The cooperative now employs 20 women, with three living in extremely poor households, some disabled, some being victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and illegal working abroad.
Rising from their own miseries, the women now can earn 4 million to 6 million VND (170 to 260 USD) per month.
Besides 20 official members weaving brocade products, the cooperative also works with different groups of local women to expand production.
“We have now provided jobs for 95 local women in Dong Van district. We have organized two vocational training courses for local women while connecting with three other groups of local women. We used to buy materials from other localities but since uniting local women, we can provide ourselves with enough materials for production”, Cau said.
During the initial operation stage, the establishment was provided with a financial assistance worth 300 million VND (nearly 13,000 USD) for buying materials and basic equipment. The cooperative was also facilitated to open a workshop for making and displaying their products near the local tourist attraction of Vuong family’s Palace in Sa Phin commune.
Besides, local officials are also the most active in advertising the products. They often wear brocade products from White Hemp Cooperative when attending domestic and overseas events and presents them as souvenirs to any delegations visiting the district, Cau said.
“In the coming time, the local government is planning to open two more workshops in the district to make the products more popular among visitors while providing more jobs for local women”, Dinh Chi Thanh, Vice Chairman of Dong Van district People’s Committee said.
Domestic violence and poverty have now been a past that exists only in the memory of the Director of White Hemp Cooperative Sung Thi Sy. Escaping from the harsh conditions, Sy and Cau now continue helping other Mong ethnic women in improving local livelihood and achieving gender equity.
“We hope our cooperative could reach more Mong ethnic women so that they can hold their destiny in their hands”, Sy said./.
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