Home Institution

University of Virginia

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Program Name

Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development


Sa Pa is a district in Lao Cai Province in the northern mountainous regions of Vietnam that is home to many ethnic minorities, including the Hmong. While Vietnam as a country is a spectacular success story in terms of its remarkable economic growth since the early 2000s, the lives of many ethnic minority groups, including the Hmong, paint a very different picture. Though the Vietnamese government has attempted to implement policies to improve the living conditions of the Hmong, lack of specificity and follow-through have not managed to break the cycle of poverty that many Hmong families experience.

Through informal conversation interviews and participatory research methods, this present study found that, economically and politically left behind, the women and girls of the Hmong suffer the most. Faced with a steadfast patriarchal society that favors sons and filial piety, and often living in geographically isolated communities, Hmong women are rarely able to alter the trajectory of their lives. With poor access to resources such as education and health, and facing deeply entrenched gender norms, Hmong women often experience marriage and childbirth at frighteningly young ages; they regularly experience gender-based violence, and are particularly susceptible to traffickers. This paper focuses on the struggles of Hmong women in regards to marriage, gender-based violence, and trafficking.

As a disclaimer and for the sake of convenience, the ethnonym Hmong will be used when referring to research participants in this paper, despite the understanding that there are several sects of the Hmong group with distinct cultural differences. No undue generalization is intended.


Asian Studies | Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Regional Sociology | Rural Sociology | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Women's Studies | Work, Economy and Organizations



Article Location