In Vietnam, it’s estimated that there are 421,000 people living in modern slavery. Nearly 70% of modern slavery victims in Vietnam are women and girls who work in forced prostitution or domestic servitude through fraudulent job opportunities or brokered marriage. To help address this situation of modern slavery in Vietnam, Free the Slaves (FTS) partnered with HopeBox, a social enterprise in Vietnam that provides shelter and training to women who are victims of violence and modern slavery. Nina is one of the women of HopeBox. This is her story.
For as long as she can remember, Nina had big dreams. She dreamt of raising a family. She dreamt of having a steady income. And she dreamt of freedom and equality.
But Nina’s dreams dimmed as she was forced into marriage at the young age of 16.
Although this is a customary tradition for ethnic minorities in Northern Vietnam, many people sold into marriage become victims of abuse, violence, and even modern slavery. Unfortunately, Nina was one of those victims.
After Nina was forced into marriage, she was moved into a new home with her in-laws. Nina’s in-laws made it clear that as a woman, she was required to serve not only her husband but the entire family. The in-laws forced her to work in horrible environments for long hours with no pay. They put her into various informal jobs and kept all the compensation she worked so hard for. When the wages she earned were not enough, they began trafficking her for additional income.
After years of abuse and trafficking, Nina became sick. At first, her husband and in-laws denied her medical treatment. Yet as the illness worsened, they realized that Nina would die if left untreated. If Nina died, they would no longer receive the income from her various jobs. On the brink of death, Nina was admitted to the hospital.
While in the hospital, she was able to rest and reflect on what her life had become. Nina realized that she was a victim of modern slavery. That’s when she decided that she deserved better.
After she recovered from her illness, Nina sought refuge with an organization supporting women and children. Nina was able to escape her marriage and traffickers. Now, Nina is receiving support from a local FTS partner, HopeBox. Nina is learning how to make and sell pastries for various clients. She is actively looking for a long-term job so that she can provide for her young children.
“I have two young children. I love them so much, and they are my source of motivation to overcome all pressure,” shared Nina when asked about her source of inspiration to complete the program in HopeBox. “I think the government needs to promote more education, training, and support activities for ethnic minorities. Like in my hometown, people often don’t go to school, so they get married at a very young age. Young people put into early marriages will lead to less knowledge in raising children and building a sustainable family,” she added.
When we asked her about her plans, she shared, “I feel more confident to look for jobs because I am now equipped with essential skills to work and provide for my children. Despite all the past misfortunes, I still look forward to opportunities to come since I am still very young. I can rebuild my life“.
Nina’s plans are very simple, but her experiences and learning in the program with HopeBox gave her more hope as a survivor. She is on her way to building her dream of raising her children with pride and dignity.
* A pseudonym has been used to protect Nina’s identity.