Defend Their Identities

During my first week in Vietnam, I met a 26-yr-old lady whom I’ll name Lan, together with her mother and  older sisters. (all the girls I met asked that I defend their identities due to the fact they feared termination or reprisal through their employers.) All 4 women make Nike shoes, at two factories owned via different companies —Pou Chen and Tae Kwang Vina—about 20 miles east of Ho Chi Minh city. We sat at the floor of the room she shares with her dad and mom, and Lan pondered on her first 12 months making shoes at Tae Kwang Vina, 8 years ago. “They might shout at me all the time to make me work tougher,” she stated. “ ‘wherein’s your mind? Are you stupid?’ ” One time, she said, her supervisor “was so unhappy with my paintings that she threw a shoe in my face, in the front of all of the others. … I cried so much the ones first months,” she said. The early months are the toughest, the ladies informed me, because they should get used to the paintings.

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