Mi holds a kid from her herd of goats that serves as a source of livelihood since her return to Viet Nam. Photo: IOM 2023

Viet Nam – In the verdant embrace of Yen Bai province, where the tapestry of life is woven with the threads of tradition and duty, Mi’s* story unfolds – a narrative of resilience in the face of destiny's harsh decree. Born into the H'Mong community, her life was a prelude written by the hands of familial expectations, devoid of the chance to chase her own dreams. The fields of maize were her classroom; the confines of her village, the only world she knew.

"No one had ever asked what I really wanted. I could only do things people allow and tell me to do."

At the tender age of 22, innocence and yearning for a glimpse beyond her borders led Mi into the clutches of a trafficker's deceitful promise. Her subsequent ordeal in China – a two-year eclipse of freedom – was a testament to the darkest facets of human exploitation. Yet, in 2019, she was once again free as local authorities rescued and escorted her back to the land she called home.

Returning was no triumphant homecoming; it was a journey back into a realm of shadows, where stigma and shame were daunting. With a future uncertain and the burden of supporting her children, Mi’s path seemed fraught with despair. However, the Tackling Modern Slavery in Viet Nam project cast a lifeline into her turbulent waters. The project paved the way to a sustained livelihood, economic independence, and self-reliance through agriculture – a symbol of sustenance and hope.

Mi is one of the 505 trafficking-in-persons victims and migrants in vulnerable situations who received support from IOM Viet Nam and its partner in the project “Tackling Human Trafficking in Viet Nam”. Photo: IOM

For Mi, this represented a departure from the life scripted for her, empowering her to pen her own narrative of resilience and renewal. Her voice, once lost in the silence of subjugation, now echoes with the strength of her spirit, charting a course toward a future filled with hope.

Mi walks her daughter to school. With a new source of livelihood, she is able to take care of her children and provide them with an education she did not get. Photo: IOM

Parallel to Mi’s tale of rebirth is Linh’s* story of resilience against the backdrop of shattered dreams. Her odyssey to the Republic of Korea, fueled by aspirations of marital bliss, morphed into a saga of survival against domestic turmoil. Pregnant and pained, she reached out in her darkest hour, only to find herself abandoned and alone upon her return to Viet Nam.

Navigating the challenges of single motherhood, Linh's plight was a mirror to the silent struggles faced by many women migrant returnees. Yet, through the compassionate outreach of the One Stop Service Office in Hai Duong, Linh found not just guidance but a beacon of hope. The project’s embrace offered more than legal assistance; it provided a sanctuary for healing, empowering her to reclaim her life and the well-being of her child.

At the One-Stop Service Office (OSSO), officers provide counselling sessions, offering emotional support. Photo: IOM Viet Nam 2023, Hau Giang Province

Both Mi and Linh’s stories are woven from the same fabric of human resilience – each thread a testament to the indomitable spirit that prevails in the face of adversity. Their journeys, marked by trials and triumphs, illuminate the transformative power of empathy and support, echoing a universal truth: within the heart of struggle for migrants and women returnees lies the potential for renewal and hope.

These narratives, emerging from the depths of despair to the heights of empowerment, remind us of the inherent spirit of resilience. Mi and Linh, once ensnared by circumstances beyond their control, now stand as beacons of strength and renewal, their lives a testament to the transformative power of compassionate intervention and the unyielding will to forge a path of self-determination and grace.

*Names have been changed to protect their identity.

The Tackling Modern Slavery in Viet Nam project is supported by the UK Government.

SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions