Chao Thi Yen: an inspiring ethnic minority young woman from Lao Cai Province (Dao Community)

It is not easy to escape from poverty and pursue dreams. But it is even more difficult if you are a girl and from a remote ethnic minority group. This was the case of Chao Thi Yen, a young woman from Dao Tuyển ethnic minority community, located in Nậm Chạc Village, Lào Cai Province (Viet Nam).

After finishing secondary school, Chao Yen wanted to continue studying at the university but due to cultural reasons, traditions and family pressures, it was not simple, on the contrary, it was very challenging. “In my hometown if you were able to write your name, it was enough. All the members of my community tried to convince my parents to not allow me to go to university”, remembers Chao Yen. But her expectations and dreams were very strong and luckily she had incredible support from her teacher who went every day to her house over the period of three years to persuade her parents. Finally, both Chao Yen’s determination and the teacher’s perseverance proved the difference.

To become the first person in her community to undertake university studies in Hanoi and then obtain a scholarship to do a Master’s degree abroad, Chao Yen had to overcome a host of financial, cultural and emotional challenges. With the wide learning all this has brought, she would now like to help her community by supporting new generations going to school, especially university, by encouraging young people to be proud of their mother tongue and culture and promoting access to information and knowledge for young people so they can make healthy and informed decisions about their future.

Chao Yen is convinced that education and digital skills are crucial to break down the stereotypes that so often dictate what choices a girl has in society. “Media plays very important role in the life of girls and young women. By using social media, ethnic minorities have better access to the information of education, employment, daily news, culture, etc. But they need to be able to navigate around all this information, otherwise it is all too easy for fake news to dominate their newsfeeds”, says Chao Yen.

With better access to accurate information and knowledge, children and young people from ethnic minority communities, especially girls and young women, have the possibility to improve their daily lives, stay in school, push back against gender inequalities and achieve their dreams.

Chao Thi Yen has a degree from the Viet Nam National University of Forestry (VNUF) in Hanoi and a master’s degree in Sustainable Forest Resource Management from Göttingen University (Germany) and the University of Padova (Italy), through a full-degree scholarship awarded by the European Union with Erasmus Mundus programme (2016-2018).

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