We know we don’t have to tell you that this has been a difficult year. COVID-19 has changed people’s lives – yourselves included – as the outbreak continues to spread. As a country that relies on tourism, Vietnam has been hit particularly hard by COVID, with two-thirds of all households reporting a loss in income. In these times of crisis, Artistri Sud’s mission to combat poverty and empower marginalised women is more important than ever.
Last year, our artisans and trainers faced uncharted territory full of challenges and disruptions. Funds that our programs relied on were slashed and redirected towards COVID relief, creating a lot of uncertainty for the Artistri Sud team. In spite of these difficulties, the AS representatives, led by Kristina Babic, made rapid adjustments to deliver high quality business education to women entrepreneurs in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Thanks to your continued support, we were able to run the Leadership, Entrepreneurship (ASSET) and the Train-The-Trainer (TTT) programs in December 2020. The training was attended by 31 participants, eight of whom completed the Leadership Training and one (Phan Ta May) completing the TTT program. Because participants were mostly from the Red Dao ethnic minorities, the Leadership training was specifically designed for ethnically marginalised women artisans.
Vietnam Programs 2020
The program covered a broad range of skills to help grow the participants’ businesses. Field research and the results of the 2018 program evaluation suggested that there was mistrust among the women, particularly if anyone tried anything new or different. As stronger and more collaborative relationships would both build confidence and make fruitful business initiatives more likely, Artistri Sud redesigned the curriculum with a focus on teamwork and communication. Seminars were held on core business strategies: communications, coaching scenarios, the importance of market segmentation and innovation for target markets. Team building exercises and experiential activities also fostered collaboration and confidence-building.
One of Artistri Sud’s main objectives is to train participants to synthesize information and transfer it to new contexts for their own benefit. And indeed, participants were delighted with the applicability of the program’s skills to their own lives and businesses. One participant, Ly, incorporated the colour theory workshop into her vegetable family business to innovate and rearrange her goods, thereby making them more attractive to customers. Another participant, Keiu May, appreciated the lessons on costing and accounting, making it easier for her to optimize profit and loss. All participants had the chance to present their products in teams on a trade fair that our TTT graduate, Ta May, had organised.
As business women in a male dominated world, the participants had always come up against structural discrimination in the workplace and in their personal lives. Some reported that they could not get jobs because they were women, and others shared stories of male violence in the household. The Leadership and ASSET programs thus target not only business growth, but empowerment in every sphere of a woman’s life. Workshops on women’s rights, presentations, finding inspiration and coaching are designed to improve their personal self-confidence and assertiveness, and achieve their business objectives. Hien, a participant from our partner organisation that specialises in microfinance Anh Chi Em, comments that “it’s not only that the training gives the knowledge and skills to women; the most important thing is the confidence.” Many of the women prior to the training identified as mothers and farmers, but after the training the participants gained the confidence to assert themselves as businesswomen and leaders.
Our TTT Graduate: Phan Ta May
Our first ever TTT graduate from Vietnam, Phan Ta May, achieved her certificate for her outstanding work during the training. May is part of the Red Dao minority in Ta Phin and prior to her training, helped her mother with her textile business. After taking the TTT program, May has successfully applied the lessons and skills she learnt, and is now developing her own business. Her new business has enormously improved her financial standing; May reports a 67% increase in income. When asked about how the program impacted her, she said “What I changed the most is my communication skills. It changed the way I talk to customers.”
The program has empowered her not only financially, but in her broader life: “I never left my village in the past, so I hardly give my opinions on anything. After joining the training, I feel more confident to express my thoughts.” May was particularly inspired by the Women’s Rights seminar, and took the initiative to hold her very own workshop on the topic in Spring 2020, spreading the empowerment message to more than 30 other women in her community. As an innovative entrepreneur, May’s long term vision for her business is to expand into the tourism industry and service.
Our lead trainer: Kristina Babic
The successful delivery of the Leadership, TTT and ASSET programs is owed to our talented lead trainer, Kristina Babic. Kristina is an award-winning educator and now is in her third year with Artistri Sud. As Country Director and Lead Trainer, Kristina helped innovate the AS’s curriculum for Vietnam in 2020 and adapted Vietnam operations to the COVID crisis with flexibility and calmness. Without her efforts to keep the team on track, the programs could not have been received this successfully. Kristina is delighted with the results, and comments that “this experience was very valuable to me. Working on preparations for the training in Vietnam and being involved in all its stages brought a lot of new experiences to me and I am very grateful for the trust given to me during the whole year.”
You make our work possible, and we thank you for everything you contribute to Artistri Sud. Because of your support, women artisans are still earning sustainable income from their businesses during the pandemic, enabling them to support themselves and their families in this unprecedented crisis. With your generosity, we will continue to provide business education to many talented women entrepreneurs in the years ahead!