Photographing in the northern part of Vietnam, Hanoi and San La regions, I was able to meet Vietnamese women, many belonging to the Black Thai and Hmong cultures.
My impressions of the women were that they epitomize the meaning of strength and beauty. Let me give a few examples.
In traveling with a medical NGO (Mobility Outreach International), I was able to meet women from hill communities who brought their children into hospital clinics for treatment. The women were beautiful in their dress and demeanor. Many had traveled by motorcycle from distant communities, sometimes hundreds of kilometers away, to find medical assistance for their young children. Sometimes they were accompanied by their husbands and in other cases were accompanied by family members. There was a real feeling of familial support. The mothers were definitely a strong presence in these clinics.
Another example came from meeting women amputees. One such woman was Leo Thi Çhai. She is Black Thai and had been in a motorcycle accident after being married for a short time. She lost a large part of her left leg. She and her husband were farmers living in a remote hill area of the north. After loosing her leg she gave birth to a child. But, the amazing part of this story is that she began to deliver while everyone in her village was out in the fields, far away. She had to deliver her own baby – and that was a breach delivery! She pulled the baby from her body by tying torn rags to the baby’s legs. Mother and child are well and healthy. This is truly an example of strength and beauty!!
The Vietnamese women I met are industrious- working in the fields, in the markets, and in the home. Hmong women produce beautiful dyed and stitched textiles. It is a tradition that is passed down in families. Many such stitch works were seen in stands along the major highways.
Overall, I felt that the women were friendly and cordial to me as a stranger.
I look forward to exploring more of Vietnam and visiting and photographing women in other tribal areas of the north.