Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Passport Series: Credit's amazing affect on Viet Nam's hardest workers

Imagine waking up at 5 a.m., working for six hours in a rice field, then having to go sell goods at a crowded market for another six? As I sit here writing this in an air-conditioned office, I can't help but feel like my workload is trivial by comparison.

Rice -- commonly referred to as the "gift from God" -- is a staple of the Vietnamese diet and national economy. In the country's most bountiful region, the Mekong Delta -- fittingly known as the "Rice Bowl" -- 80% of the population is employed in rice cultivation.

Farming rice is incredibly hard work, requiring growers to wade ankle deep into muddy water and bend over for hours transplanting, harvesting and tending to crops in the hot sun. Two former Kiva Fellows, Bernice and Nate, discovered exactly how difficult it is. They shot the video below while trying to learn how to harvest rice from a Kiva borrower:

For many, the fruit of this back-breaking labor does not provide enough income to fully support themselves and their families. Instead, they must supplement their incomes with micro-enterprises like selling fruit and other goods, or raising animals. The strength and energy of these borrowers is remarkable.

Poor, rural Vietnamese women face even more obstacles, including widespread discrimination and cultural expectations for deference, making their successes all the more hard-won and inspiring. One Kiva Fellow wrote that she found herself repeatedly thinking "What a woman!" as she conducted borrower verification interviews. The amount of energy they exerted was impressive, but their positivity and resilience made the biggest impact on the Fellow.

Kiva borrower Ms. Trinh sells goods at her market stall in Dong Son. Through smiles and laughter, she told us how she wants to thank all the lenders who help her make ends meet.

Watching her reminds me that it's not only direct financial support that enables women to better care for their families -- recognition of the important role they play helps too. Having strangers acknowledge and support them is a powerful reminder of their hard work's value.

Just as Mrs. Xuong, director of our Viet Nam Field Partner FPW, told Kiva Fellow Elena Kuehn, "The credit gives the women confidence.”

We are proud to support the conscious endeavors of these borrowers as they work toward a better future for themselves, their families, and Viet Nam

This is the final post of a three part series taking a deep-dive look at Viet Nam, its history with microfinanceKiva's role in expanding opportunities for Vietnamese, and what it's like to participate in the country's economy as a borrower, lender and field worker. We hope you've enjoyed it and look forward to showcasing Burkina Faso through the month of May!

Photos courtesy of Direct Positive.