Small Village Overcomes Stigma of Women Who Have Been Trafficked

In Hop Tien Village in northern Vietnam, one village has overcome the stigma and power of trafficking. Predators had come to this village to recruit women and children as young as 5 or 6 to be sold over the border to China which was only 4 miles away.

Even after some victims had been rescued, the women who returned were disowned. Some built makeshift tents tucked high in the mountains, a long way from town, because they were not welcome in their village any longer.

But a woman named Vang Thi Mai took in some of these women and changed their lives and eventually their whole village. She employed them in a small textile cooperative run by her and her husband. She taught them to separate hemp stems into strands, spin, weave and dye fabrics. At first she was ostracized by the village for reaching out to the women, but gradually attitudes began to change.

Today the co-op is over 110 women strong. The women’s work has increased household’s incomes fourfold. Because of this, Mrs. Mai has been visited by Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong and has represented her culture (Hmong) at an international craft fair in Paris where NGO’s Oxfam and Caritas became involved with her co-op.

Although it has been hard to change the opinions of some of the older villagers, the younger ones no longer ostracize the once trafficked women and support Mrs. Mai in her work. Her village is better off than many others in her province thanks to the work of the victims of trafficking and Mrs. Mai’s vision.

-excerpted from NY Times article by Julie Cohn, 8-17-11,