4 July 2009
Nguyen Thi Lanh is 40 years old and a mother of two. As her family’s only breadwinner she works long hours in a shoe factory far from home.
Since the recession hit, her already small income has been halved.
Her family, whose lives were improving, is now finding it hard to make ends meet.
Lanh works in Sao Vang Shoe Company in Hai Phong city, Vietnam, whilst her husband and sons live in distant Thai Binh province. He suffers from arthritis and can only manage light work in the family’s small field, producing barely enough rice for the family. Their survival depends on Lanh’s income.
Until the recession hit, the family’s situation had been been improving. Lanh used to return home every two weeks with money for them and both boys were in school. Thanks to ActionAid Vietnam and local partner, Centre for Workers’ Rights (CWR), Lanh had gained invaluable information ranging from improving personal health to her legal rights as a worker and social support for sickness.
Now, shoe orders have dropped and half of her co-workers have been made redundant. Although she is still working full time her income has been halved, leaving her with just £12 for herself and £18 for the family each month. Lanh feels lucky to still have a job.
With only £12 to live on, and facing ever rising food prices, she eats one small meal a day. Lanh cannot afford clean water so uses water from a hand dug well. Surviving on small amounts of vegetables and rice, she says she feels malnourished and weak.
Lanh’s oldest son has dropped out of school and is now seeking work and she worries about her second child. Tuition fees are approximately £140 – the equivalent of almost five months wages at her current rate of pay.
Lanh’s situation is hard but, with no civil support, the outlook for her ex co-workers is desperate. Some may be able to return to their home villages but farming land is limited and cannot support many people. ActionAid and CWR already works to prevent the trafficking of women and girls but there are few other options and none of them are good.
As the recession deepens, we must ensure that we continue our support for women like Lanh.