PORTRAITS OF STRENGTH: Ethnic Women in North Vietnam

Tony Corocher



“PORTRAITS OF STRENGTH” aims at documenting the life of some very poor ethnic minorities that live in the mountains and valleys of North Vietnam, near the border with China. I was particularly interested in portraying the conditions and lifestyle of the ethnic women community.

While in Hanoi for another project, I had the opportunity to go with a local NGO to visit an ethnic community a few hours from the city… what I saw was small groups of people living in very poor and extremely hard conditions, in forgotten villages, left to themselves without even the basic amenities. When I asked about what had been done for them I was told that the government and the official institutions, in Vietnam’s recent “rush to capitalism/consumerism”, have no time to worry about these few individuals, so, most of the times, they turn a blind eye and simply carry on with their business, with development and innovation.

I believe our perception of these minorities is not correct. It is based, mainly, on the images/stories we get from the Sapa tourist area… the real situation is quite different. The conditions of the ethnic groups living away from the tourist path are much tougher and much more difficult. I was told that these minorities receive help from the government. From what I have seen it is not always so… Most of the help goes to the Sapa area for further development (it is already a very rich area compared to the rest of the country) while the other groups are, frequently, left by themselves to cope with very harsh conditions…

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  • "Woman with child" - This woman was living on the edge of a small road going down a valley. There were just 3 houses and a small village at the bottom of the mountain. Beautiful view but very hard living conditions.

  • "Living in harmony with nature" - Woman with children looking after the harvest near a village at the border with China.

  • "Woman with children inside her home" - Living conditions are extremely hard in the mountains in the North of Vietnam, especially during the very cold winters. These families do not have electricity or running water but they still manage with some help from local people.

  • "Sticky rice production" - Women working to make sticky rice which will then be stored away. The rice is squashed into a pulp and will be turned into a paste to be used in many different ways.

  • "Young woman preparing a meal" - Young woman preparing a meal inside her home in a tiny village in the mountains of north Vietnam.

  • "Young woman preparing a meal" - Young woman preparing a meal inside her home in a tiny village in the mountains of north Vietnam.

  • "Woman outside her home" - while some women were busy preparing the sticky rice others take care and looked after the children.

  • "The local market" - Ethnic women from nearby villages at a small local market in the main town.

  • "Generations" - Old and young women taking care of everyday things in a small village down a remote valley on the border with near China.

  • "Ethnic, traditional and modern... the new mix" - Ethnic woman showing her child the new modern ways.