The project ‘enhancing the participation and voice of ethnic minority women’ in Bắc Kạn province, used collaborative research methods to enhance the strengths and voices of local Tày, Dao and Hmông women. Collaborate research methods allowed these women to identify local problems and decide on which ones to research, with the objective of presenting their research to state agencies and mobilize those and social organizations to resolve their problems.
From November 2015, 32 community researchers – consisting of Tày, Dao and H’mông women – have participated in training courses on cultural diversity and on photo-voice and participant observation as research methods. The majority of the women were very excited about the method of photo-voice, which enables storytelling through pictures.
After the photo-voice training the Nà Khao & Bản Luộc group said: “We’ve met a lot of people and we could capture and record what happens in the community. Taking pictures is very interesting.” In addition the Vằng Quan group shared: “photo-voice made us feel more confident about sharing the things that we wanted to say and taught us how to look at existing problems in the community and ways to clarify them.
Alongside farming, animal husbandry and doing housework, women took photos together and interviewed community members about the most urgent issues in their community. Over a month later, the community research groups of Phúc Lộc county came together and decided on four topics that the community was interested in: environmental pollution, raising black pigs, children dropping out of school and the traditional costumes of ethnic Tày, Dao.
After this meeting, the women continued to look for a better understanding of these topics. During their research they received a lot of support from the community. Ms. Nông Thị Inh said: “At home we’re very busy, and now we’re very busy too but we can exchange information and learn many things. Without this project we wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to places and learn about people’s frustration about the garbage, since they have never spoken about it before. Through this project, people get the opportunity to exchange their thoughts and opinions. At first, people didn’t want to have their picture taken because they didn’t understand the purpose. When they learned I was researching environmental pollution, they were very supportive. They told me they were annoyed about the amount of garbage that was thrown into the water. Someone got so enthusiastic about the research he went into the stream to get some trash bags for us to photograph. Since I’ve never participated in such a project before I was shy at first. But once the project started everyone was so supportive which made it very fun.”
Conducting the research was also a time for women to learn about and from their community. For example, one community research group got the opportunity to speak with elderly people about how they used to make the traditional Tày and Dao costumes.
The training course on presentation skills helped women to strongly present their research results at a workshop on 28/6/2016, with the involvement of the community, all levels of government and other stakeholders.