Building Our Future: A Community Campaign

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COMMUNITY VOICES | A joint response to Chue Feng Vang’s tragic death: Let’s find better solutions to end family violence

A Valentine Heartbreak

The weekend before Valentine’s Day my dad took my mom and I to a jewelry store.  He said I was going to pick out anything I wanted, preferably a jewelry set. I was excited.

On our way to the store, my dad mentioned how low the gas tank was. “But I don’t have any money left,” my mom said softly and calmly.  She turned around to look at me. 

"I don’t have any money either, but we can charge it to my card I guess. I’m getting paid next week," I responded, avoiding eye contact with my mom.

When we got to the jewelry store, my dad said to pick out anything that I liked. Right away my eyes were drawn to a sparkling bracelet. “There’s only two left,” said a salesperson as she pulled the bracelet out for me to try. 

"It’s so pretty!" I exclaimed, marveling at how perfect the silver looked against my skin. 

"This one dad, I like this one,” I exclaimed excitedly to my dad, but then I saw the price - $180.  "Uh, but it’s so expensive," I said.               

"It’s okay, things like this are expensive. Don’t worry about the price. Let’s get it sized," my dad said.             

"Wow this is so perfect," said the saleswoman as she sized the bracelet on me. "Need to take off exactly two cuffs. I can make it into a pair of earrings for you, that way you’ll have a matching set," remarked the woman.  She sure knew how to sell. I lit up at the idea, but I looked at my dad and he said nothing, so I told the saleswoman, “We’ll hold off on that idea.”               

"Come here dear, let’s look at these earrings here," my dad directed me over to the earrings.  "I really like these gold ones."                

"Yeah, I like those too. They’re really pretty, and the yellow beads go really well with the gold," I replied. 

We looked around some more for earrings but none were as nice as the gold ones, so we decided to get them.  It was another $80.               

We paid a total of $240 for the bracelet and earrings.  The saleswoman gave us a $20 discount since it was a Valentine’s Day present. My mom remained silent; she just followed my dad and I as we looked through the glass cabinets. She blankly stared at my dad has he took out $300 to pay for the jewelry. 

The saleswoman asked if I wanted to wear the bracelet or have it wrapped.

I would have loved to wear it out of the store; loved to go to work the next day and show it off to my coworkers and brag, “Look what my dad bought me!” I would have loved to post it on Facebook, but instead I just smiled and told the saleswoman to wrap it.  Then, I handed it to my dad.    

At home, my mom wrapped the bracelet and earrings in a box of sparkly purple paper.  She placed the gift box into a bigger box with other presents that my dad had purchased earlier in the week.  After my mom finished taping the bigger box, my dad told me to address to ‘Vientiane, Laos.’ I was heartbroken. I felt paralyzed about what to do.

That is my 2014 Valentine’s Day story, but it’s my mom’s life. She saves every penny to provide for her family, feeling shameful when she has to ask her children to help, because her small paycheck can’t cover bills, food, and gas. Her husband, the father of her children, saves every penny to spend and provide for his girlfriends in Laos.  She doesn’t feel she can leave; what would her life be without him, a husband.

"She’s tiny like you, and if it fits you, it should fit her," said my dad. So that’s why he took me to the jewelry shop – to help him choose, and size jewelry. And, he took my mom along to pay for gas. 

"At least he paid for jewelry and shipping himself," said my mom, looking away so I wouldn’t see her tears.

-Anonymous, 23 years old, Minneapolis

We are disturbed by the youtube videos posted by Hmong American men and women advertising young people overseas

This is the season when (both men and women) head overseas for Hmong New Year. We have started to see youtube videos from their trips, and it is disturbing. We are appalled by the acts of adult Hmong American men and women who are so shameless, selfish, and just plain wrong in courting young Hmong sisters and brothers overseas. They are essentially advertising these young people for exploitation.

Women - we cannot use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. That means if you are hurt, harmed, and suffer because your husband went overseas to have a new relationship with someone and you do the same thing it does not make you the better person. Women cannot use the ways of men to achieve gender equity. Sure, you can do the same thing, but you then just become like the person who wronged you.

Hmong Americans we have the power to build a brighter future for all Hmong. Please do not abuse and use your privileges of education, money, and opportunities to exploit our young sisters and brothers.

"If you cannot help them, don't exploit them." Video clip from MN's Community Vigil

Pastor Tsuchu Vang was our closing speaker at the Building Our Future Community Campaign’s community vigil in St. Paul on October 25. He provided powerful words of wisdom about manhood, fatherhood, and what it takes to raise the kind of family that we all hope for. Additionally, as someone who’s lived in Laos, Pastor Vang talks about his first hand experiences with the harms caused by abusive international marriages.

Dec 4

Movement Builds Within the Hmong Community to End Domestic Violence and Abusive International Marriages

So, the thing is that, our body is going to die, but the mission, and the campaign that we have, I want that to survive, and I want that to live forever. And for that reason, I will continue my work. And I’m not afraid of death.

- Malala Yousafzai 

A perspective from a sister in Laos.

A Summary of the Viv Ncaus Laos Session on Prevention of Abusive International Marriages & Domestic Violence

On October 25, 2013 36 participants (32 females and 4 males) came together in Laos with Viv Ncaus Laos and discussed the problems and solutions to end and prevent abusive international marriages and domestic violence. This is a summary of their session.

Problem:
1. Poverty drives family and young women to engage in international marriages
2. Lack of educational opportunities and scholarship
3. Lack of accurate information regarding actual situations of international marriages in both countries
4. Lack of supporting network for the victims and potential-victims

Solutions:
1. Provide opportunities that lead to financial scholarships and access to education for Hmong youth in Laos
2. Identify and make visible role models for Hmong women in Laos who are independent with higher education to help empower other Hmong women in Laos to see that they can succeed without being in an international relationship
3. Create networks to exchange information and opinions, such as a mentoring program for young women and men; also, create strong networking between women in the US and Laos to provide factual information about both countries to prevent DV and other problems related to international relationships
4. Educate youth in Laos to become more informed about the consequences of abusive international marriages and to help people in the US to understand the situation in Laos

Nov 3
superemismom:

Feminism is our aspiration of creating a more gender equitable world. But we should expect that there will tension and friction when we do the work of getting there, because the truth is that we’ve never lived in that kind of world before.  

superemismom:

Feminism is our aspiration of creating a more gender equitable world. But we should expect that there will tension and friction when we do the work of getting there, because the truth is that we’ve never lived in that kind of world before.  

Nov 1

Hmong girls and children have the right to live their life to the fullest.  They should be loved not exploited.  End abusive international marriages.

Nyob sab tiv los yog peb cov menyuam, nyob sab tim no los yog peb cov menyuam. Yog peb ntshaw kev vam meej rau Hmoob yuav tsum nrhiav kev kawm, kev txawj, kev ncaj, thiab kev txhawb rau peb cov menyuam. Cov neeg laus yuav tsum ua tus qhauv zoo, txhob ua ywj siab.

On both sides of the ocean they are all our children. If we want a prosperous and thriving Hmong community we must ensure our children have education, wisdom, justice, and support. Adults must be role models and not selfishly abuse their authority and power.

- #buildourfuture2013

Hmong Wisconsin Radio Donated 4 Hours to Building Our Community

Thank you Hmong Wisconsin Radio for giving our organizers 4 hours of air time to talk about the issue of abusive international marriages and how it is impacting communities. We needed your support to created awareness. #buildourfuture2013

On the Day of Action our sisters and brothers in Laos also joined us. They discussed problems and solutions to end abusive international marriages. #buildourfuture2013

Some may say a Hmong man has lost his self esteem, his leadership, his hope and that’s why why he abuses and does foolish things, but did the Hmong woman not loose just as much in war, poverty, immigration? We cannot justify using male privileges and power to control and abuse. It is up to all of us to hold accountability for those who do wrong, not to find excuses for them.

- #buildourfuture2013

The community gathers in Sacramento to discuss the impacts of abusive international marriages and prepares for a future session to develop solutions #buildourfuture2013