Tan Minh Single women’s group was formed in 1996 when a Finnish nonprofit, then called Devaid, now Coalition for Environment and Development/CED, started a project called “Supporting for Tan Minh Single Women”. Tan Minh village is in Soc Son district near the Hanoi airport in Vietnam. The group consists of 117 women. There is no one explanation why there are so many single mothers in Tan Minh, we all have a different story to tell.
Back in 1996 we were living in very poor conditions, sharing our houses with chickens. Our social status within the local community was very low and so was our confidence. A micro credit saving program was made available to us in 1997. We bought farm animals and tools, slowly but surely our living conditions started to improve. Devaid provided us support and training on farming, health, and hygiene. Most importantly we learned to work together and rise our opinions. Sharing experiences and getting support from other women in similar situations gave us courage.
After years of hard work we have improved our social and economical status. We no longer have to fear for someone to steal our chickens if we leave the house.
As reward for our work the local community donated us a piece of land to build a meeting hall in 2006. The building is used for our meetings, silk distribution, and as a place to get together.
We have become an example of a successful development project and role models for other single mothers in Vietnam. Our lives were featured in an exhibition called 'Single mothers' voices' at the Hanoi Womens' Museum in 2011. You can see the entire exhibition here.
The current situation
Now we have new challenges ahead of us. The Soc Son area is industrializing fast, the farming land is getting smaller and smaller. We need to find diverse sources of living, be prepared for the future where farming is no longer our main source of income.
CED provided a sewing course for a group of us in 2007. Soon after we started producing Soundly Sleeping Dragon silk sleeping bags. In January 2009 the Tan Minh Single Mothers' Cooperative was formed. In Finland the sleeping bags are sold directly by CED at silkkimakuupussi.fi and they can also be found at the Red Cross gift shop and the Rosebud book stores. We have over 10 000 happy users in Finland!
We are working towards a Fair Trade certification. In order to qualify the income from the cooperative has to be our main source income and we are not quite there yet. However, we strictly follow the Fair Trade Principals. See how we apply them.
Our products entered the North American market in 2017 with the help of long time volunteer Salka Armstrong. Salka spent six months with us in 2009 and did sales and marketing for our products in Finland afterwards. She now lives in Michigan with her family.
We hope to find more customers to get more women involved in the sleeping bag making. By buying our products you are supporting our efforts in maintaining sustainable and independent life!