“Just being born as a woman in Hmong culture is wrong. I don’t know what to fight for. I have to accept my destiny. If I fight for my rights, most people would think that it’s wrong and weird, that it’s not traditional.”
*Sai, a Hmong woman, told Center For Girls Foundation (CFG)’s staff about her life and perspective before she started working with CFG.
Sai is married to a Hmong man. She takes care of the family and does housework. Originally, the marriage did not go as she hoped, and she had to endure many things because she cannot leave the relationship. Sai told us that in Hmong culture, once you are married, you cannot live with your parents again. Once a woman is married into a Hmong family, she no longer has the freedoms or rights to do what she desires. Sai has to do all the housework and even some duties outside of the house. She cannot refuse to do any of these tasks. Meanwhile, her husband’s only duty is to do labor work. Originally, she could not leave the village without her husband’s permission or could only leave if he came with her. Otherwise, If Sai left the village alone, it would be viewed that she is having an affair with another man.
CFG recognizes the issues women face. We give worth to each issue and try to solve it. We do so by raising awareness about the situation, providing knowledge, and hosting workshops to analyze the problem and find solutions with women groups and people in the community. CFG works with community leaders and women groups in the district where Sai reside. One day, CFG went to Sai’s village to host a workshop on women’s rights. Sai had the opportunity to join that workshop because she had a break from farming. When she first joined the workshop, she liked it and took interest in the topic. However, she kept everything that she learned to herself because she thought she couldn’t create a change. She also thought most people would not accept and are scared of changes.
After she joined many workshops and activities that CFG hosted in her villages, she started to change her mind. Sai changed her perspective and decided that she wanted to talk to her husband to get him to understand her point of view and support her. She told him about the workshop that she attended and the activities that she participated in. Her husband understood Sai and supported her in being a woman leader and doing activities with the other women in their village. Now Sai works with other ethnic women in her community to develop women’s potential, promote gender equality, and empower Hmong women to have more freedom of thought and to live freely. Sai added, “I feel so lucky to work with Center For Girls and I thank them for coming to the village and looking after Hmong women. It made us feel that we are a part of a change and that we have equal rights as men.”
*Story, name, and photo are published with permission
– Wanwarin Yensuk
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