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Posts Tagged ‘International Women’s History Month’

Celebrating International Women’s History: Ho Xuan Huong, Queen of Nom Poetry

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

For our second Women of Vietnam feature, we’re taking a closer look at Ho Xuan Huong, one of Vietnam’s most beloved poets often referred to as the “Queen of Nom Poetry.”

Even though her poems are widely known and there are even a number of streets named after her in Vietnam, Ho Xuan Huong has been something of an enigma. She is believed to have been born in 1772 and died in 1822. Her family history is disputed, but the general consensus is that she eventually became the concubine of a man named Tong Cuc, a ranking official of the Le Dynasty.

Despite her  role as a concubine, Ho Xuan Huong showed a rejection of social norms and irreverence uncommon for women of the time. (Remember that she was living in 17th/18th Century Vietnam–an era steeped in Confucian traditions, which brought with them the exaltation of education and family values, but often the subjugation of women as well.) Her convention-defying attitudes were conveyed in her poetry. She had an uncanny ability to write of mundane subjects, but inflect them with sensual undertones (or overtones). She was a master of the double entendre, delighting her audience and providing a rare voice against sociopolitical oppression.

Her poems were later translated into English by John Balaban in a book aptly titled Spring Essence, though it’s almost always better to read the original if you can. You can view some of them here.

Here’s Why We Need International Women’s Day

Friday, March 8th, 2013


Happy International Women’s Day everyone! On this day, we take a moment to celebrate all the wonderful contributions women have made to society. Some people might think, “Why do we even need an International Women’s Day? I hug my mom everyday without anyone reminding me, thank you very much!”

But the truth is, sometimes, if we don’t dedicate a moment to women, many of their contributions will go unappreciated and many of the challenges they face will still go unaddressed. Here’s a prime example of why we need International Women’s Day: according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), “Viet Nam is among a few countries in the world where gender pay gap has been widening while the gap has declined in most nations in the 2008-11 period compared to 1999-2007.”

On average, women in Vietnam make 70% – 80% of what men earn in comparable jobs. To reiterate: women earn up to 30% less than men for the same type of work! In a press release, the ILO stated, “The latest Labour Force Survey Report published in 2012 showed that female workers have lower monthly incomes than their male colleagues in all economic sectors – State, non-State and foreign-invested.”

Even in jobs traditionally dominated by women, such as healthcare and social work, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts. Furthermore, the glass ceiling is very much alive in Vietnam as the majority of management posts are still staffed by men. Vietnam also has a number of structural labor issues that increase the burden of low wages on women. For instance, even though working in healthcare may require more skills, jobs traditionally held by men but require less skills will still pay more.

These reasons alone point to why we need International Women’s Day. We need to bring these issues to the fore and rectify injustices. Really, we should be discussing these issues daily until women are treated truly equally to their male counterparts.


Source: International Labour Organization

Celebrating International Women’s History: The Trung Sisters of Vietnam

Monday, March 4th, 2013


Happy March everyone! March is a month chock full of events and activities. For the mathematicians, 3/14 is Pi Day. For the Irish and others who’ve adopted Ireland’s culture, 3/17 is St. Patrick’s Day. And for the literary enthusiasts out there, 3/15 marks the Ides of March, the date notoriously immortalized in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.

For us at the VNHELP office, we are happy to see March commemorated as International Women’s History Month. Why not take the opportunity to honor some of the celebrated women in Vietnamese culture through a “Women of Vietnam” series?

We’re kicking off the series with the Trung Sisters, better known to many Vietnamese as “Hai Bà Trưng.”

If you grew up in a Vietnamese household, then you are sure to have heard of the names of these two sisters floated before. If not, here’s your chance to be privy about two of the most celebrated figures in Vietnamese history.