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Daily Work Helps Women Explore New Possibilites

26622-fc3edb-strong-empowered-women-1-499x344Growing up it was clear to me that as a girl, I wasn’t as worthy as a boy. I noticed that my father’s expectations for me were not as high. He was less stringent with me than he was with my brothers; he had very high expectations for them. I remember how my father always praised my brothers for everything they did. But I was not recognized or praised by my father as much.

I think this is due in part to the traditional belief that once a Hmong daughter marries, she becomes an “outsider.” She leaves her family and goes to live her life with her husband’s family. She is no longer the “daughter” of her real parents. The traditional role of a Hmong daughter is to learn how to be a good wife, so she can serve her future husband and his family. Before I married, I was taught to be a good wife, which meant that I learned to be a maid. I had to stay at home to cook, clean, and care for children and my future husband.

If I am not able or willing to serve my husband, it makes my parents look bad; they will “lose face.” In my culture, this means my parents did not teach me properly. This “loss of face” has serious consequences because it reflects negatively on me and my entire family. To maintain “face,” I will have to fulfill the roles and responsibilities I was taught.

This world view makes me feel like women are living a private world, while men get to live in the public world. Therefore, men have greater opportunities to access resources, while women must stay at home and devote their lives to the household and to the lives of her husband and children. Many Hmong men still believe this is the appropriate role of women.

While this may be surprising to many Americans, cultures that prefer males over females are nothing new. In fact, the effect of this preference is more profound than ever, according to Susan Brink, writing for Minnesota Public Radio. Brink writes:

In 1995, only six countries had such a marked imbalance of boys to girls. Today, 21 countries have a skewed sex ratio favoring boys. The growth of gender imbalance in only two decades points to widespread acceptance of modern technology that can predict the sex of the fetus...

 Technology has enabled even the poorest of countries to bypass the natural gender balance. "It's largely due to the abortion of females," says Hudson. "But it's also due to passive neglect, such as underfeeding, under immunization, and failing to take girls to the doctor when they're sick."

Even in American culture, there is a preference to have boys over girls, especially for people under 30.

In this new survey [Gallup], out of over one thousand people interviewed, 40 percent of respondents admitted they wanted a son more than they wanted a daughter. Just 28 percent said they would rather have a daughter, and 26 percent said they would be content with either sex. The remainder had no opinion. In fact, Gallup noted that Americans' preference for a male child is even stronger today than it was in 1941, when just 38 percent preferred a son, with 24 percent preferring a daughter

While I believe there is still a lot to overcome in terms of gender inequality both here and around the world, I am happy to be in America and have more choices about how I want to lead my life. 

As a Hmong woman about to graduate from college, I will probably not be a stay-at-home mom.

I would rather choose to “lose face” for the sake of my children and their future. I will not teach them the role which I was brought up with; I will teach my children that gender does not matter. If you are a boy or a girl, you`re going to have to learn how to wash the dishes, cook and clean. I want them to recognize, girl or boy, they are wanted, equally worthy and capable of everything.

I choose not to follow the roles that I was brought up with because I know how it feels to not feel wanted and worthy because of my gender, and I refuse to let my own children feel what I felt.

This decision could make me look bad to both sides of my family, and that’s O.K. Though my family could “lose face” due to the choices and decisions I make, I know that they will come to understand that things change and progress over time; even my father now thinks differently.

He now believes that men and women should be equal and that we are all capable of doing anything. He even voted for Hillary Clinton as his choice for president! My father is also trying to make it possible for our family to change for the better. He shows more involvement with my daughter than he did with me when I was a little girl. He teaches my daughter how to play the Hmong instrument call the “Qeej” that only men and boys traditionally are allowed to play. Every family wants a son who can play this instrument for the basic ceremony to bury the dead.

At Daily Work, many of our immigrant job seekers now see different choices and possibilities for themselves. We assist our job seekers by helping them take small steps to meet their goals. We not only help people find jobs that help them be financially stable, we help them become the people they want to be.

We are a sounding board for all of their struggles, and we help them figure out what they want their lives to look like now that they are living in America. We encourage and empower our job seekers by looking at their strengths and helping them build upon them.

You can join Daily Work in empowering women and other people like me by donating your time by volunteering or donating financially. Your support and helps people like me choose new possibilities for themselves. Every day, your support helps creates a more just and equitable community that celebrates the gifts each of has to contribute, no matter our gender.

By Kalia Vang, former case management intern

Kalia

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