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Background

VivNcaug began as a one-year start-up project initiated by Hmong women who are concerned about the limited educational and economic opportunities available to ethnic minority women in Laos. The lack of access to these opportunities has led an increasing number of women to engage in high risk behaviors. Many are lured into trafficking, which not only puts them in vulnerable situations, but also, lowers their status and self-confidence. As a preventative measure, this project initiated a mentorship approach. We established a basic skills training center to build strong support among women where they can exchange information, increase their awareness about socio-economic challenges and opportunities, and develop basic skills to enter the job market.  Our goal was to increase their knowledge and self-esteem so that they will be confident in working to change their position in society.

 

One of VivNcaug’s aims is to create a world where Hmong women have the capacity, knowledge, skills, and power to influence and create their own happiness.  Creating and increasing access to educational and economic opportunities will make women more self reliant and confident, and will enable women to support themselves, thereby becoming less dependent on their husbands and families. Due to historical patriarchal practices of favoring sons over daughters, parents have typically selected their sons for a variety of opportunities while daughters are left to work in the field, in the home, or to be married off.  While changing these norms and practices are important, we understand that fundamental transformation takes time. Thus, other options must be made available for daughters.   Intentionally creating space that is supportive and conducive to learning will ensure a higher quality of life for women. As our capacity increases, we hope to extend programs to other ethnic minority women, including Khmu, Mien, and Akha.

 

VivNcaug’s Achievements

In our first two years, we exceeded our initial goals.  VivNcaug started a mentorship program for 12 young women that enabled them to network and broaden their self-awareness, and learn about factors that influence gender inequality.  More than 358 women and 50 men attended our meetings and basic training in English language and computer use.  When surveyed, 78% said that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with activities organized by VivNcaug and 94% said that they will likely use their new knowledge and skills.

 

Three-Year Goals

VivNcaug is working to build a community of economically empowered and socially responsible Hmong women who work together to narrow the socio-economic divide.  Our achievements in the first two years have encouraged us to continue our efforts to better serve Hmong women and girls. Our goal is to maintain the training and resource center and reach out to more people. We will focus on the following components:

 

  • Educational Development – increasing women’s and girls’ knowledge and skills by supporting their access to formal and informal education through training and internship and scholarships;
  • Economic Empowerment – creating opportunities for women to generate supplementary income through participation in the Handicrafts from the Heart project and providing training in business development, handicraft design, production and marketing; and 
  • Healthy Lifestyle Promotion – enhancing the mental and physical well-being of Hmong women and men by developing a supportive network of health awareness trainings and providing mentorship opportunities.