|A sweet mandarin garden belonging to Lò Dìn Phủng, Bố Y ethnic minority woman in Lao Chải Village, Mường Khương District in the northern mountainous province of Lào Cai. VNA/VNS Photo|
LÀO CAI – In the past, ethnic minority women in the northern mountainous province of Lào Cai believed that they were born to do housework, take care of their husbands and children, as well as rely on men their whole lives.
But things are much different. More and more women have overcome social prejudices, dared to try new things and make drastic changes to get a better life and be in leadership positions.
Their success can be attributed to never giving up on their dreams, despite the barriers they have faced since birth.
Their achievements contributed to the socio-economic development in the highland border areas of the country.
Lò Dìn Phủng, a Bố Y ethnic minority woman in Lao Chải Village, Mường Khương Town in Mường Khương District, inherited tens of hectares of land from her parents after marriage, but the only thing she could do was growing corn.
However, the cornfield didn’t ensure a stable income. No matter how hard the couple worked, they still lived in poverty.
Phủng sensed something was wrong, but she didn’t know exactly what it was.
“I was told that women were born to do housework, take care of children and rely on men. Women were not allowed to discuss business or big family affairs. We should do what we were told to do,” Phủng said.
In 2006, some villagers switched part of their corn fields to sweet mandarin plants. The plants were suitable for hilly soil and brought them a bumper crop.
Phủng decided to take a bold move. She would switch her cornfield to produce sweet mandarins as well.
She borrowed VNĐ50 million (US$2,113) from the Social Policy Bank of Mường Khương District to start her business.
Phủng said she was among the first mandarin growers in Mường Khương District, so no one had experience in growing and taking care of this type of tree.
Many local people gave a doubtful look at her garden. Some even said she couldn’t make it.
Phủng thought to herself she would work and learn from experience. Every day, she climbed up the hill to take care of her 100 mandarin trees. She made a profit in her first harvest - ten times higher than that of the cornfield.
This first success helped her gain confidence to plant 2,000 more mandarin trees. She also experimented with Japanese seedless persimmon trees.
Now her garden has more than 10,000 mandarin and Japanese seedless persimmon plants. Of that, there are more than 6,000 trees in the harvest period and the rest are aged between one and three years.
Each year, her family harvests about 60-70 tonnes of mandarin and persimmon, earning a profit of VNĐ400-500 million (US$16,900-21,130) per year.
She has learned marketing skills to sell her products to other northern provinces.
Phủng didn’t keep success to herself. She shared her experiences at the regular meetings of the Lao Chải Village’s Women’s Union to inspire other women in the village.
“Bố Y ethnic women are becoming independent and ready to share financial burdens with their husbands. They are no longer passive and dependent,” she said.
“For generations, the idea that women have to rely on men is deeply rooted in the subconscious of ethnic minority people. Our Giáy community is no exception,” according to Nông Thị Minh, a member of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee of Lào Cai Province and former chairwoman of the Cốc San Commune’s Women's Union in Bát Xát border district.
Minh deeply understands the feelings of local ethnic minority women.
She was born and raised in Cốc San Commune, so knows local women were extremely timid. Most rarely went out of their community and had limited access to new things.
In order to help women improve their lives, Minh came to their houses, talked to them and encouraged them to try something new with their crops.
She told them about new varieties of short-term, high-yielding rice, fruit plants in upland areas and fish ponds in low-lying areas.
Seeing their hesitation, Minh asked the commune leaders to organise visits to households who have succeeded in their agricultural production in the province. She guided each household how to get loans to start their businesses.
Many households have managed to get out of poverty. Hoàng Thị Chắp, a local woman in Cốc San Commune, said she earned six times higher from her fish pond than that from the rice crop.
Thanks to Minh's active advocacy and drastic actions, local women gradually become more confident in themselves.
In 2007, as chairwoman of the commune’s Farmer's Association, Minh voluntarily donated 2,200 square metres of land to build a road in the commune. The new concrete road helped people travel more conveniently.
Local people were inspired by her acts. Hoàng Văn Cao, a resident of Ún Tà Village decided to donate 2.5 hectares of his land and dozens of other households supported 1,000 square metres of land for road building.
Minh was awarded certificates of merit for her contribution and inspiration to the community. – VNS