Sung Di, in her late 20s, leaves her child behind to join 50 other women at a community meeting. This meeting is not about how to raise her child, cook a new dish, or discuss the prices of food in the local market.
These women of H’Mong ethnic group in Cao Son commune, northern mountainous province of Lao Cai come together to discuss and do “men’s work”—maintaining local roads.
Just a short while ago, in this remote village, it was still a widespread belief that a woman’s role is inside the house.
This belief—part of a cultural tradition where women should only take care of children and housework—has also been popular across the different ethnicities of Vietnam, including the Kua people in Minh Hoa district, Quang Binh central province. It also didn’t help that road conditions are bad, making it hard for them to leave their homes and for motor vehicles to pass.
“It was also difficult to go anywhere as the road was rough. It was difficult for children to go to school, for old people to go to the clinic, and for us to go to the market. Our life is enclosed in the house,” said Ho Thi Thanh, of Kua ethnic group from Thuong hamlet, Minh Hoa district.
A project funded by DFID- UK and supported by the World Bank has helped these women “get out” of their house, and break free from tradition. The project has even give them an additional source of livelihood. As part of the Third Rural Transport Project, women receive assistance for doing road maintenance work, an employment opportunity normally given to men or contractors at a high price.